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S. Korea to evenly supply face masks to public, ban mask exports: prime minister

All Headlines 09:47 March 05, 2020

SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will seek to evenly distribute face masks to people and ban mask exports in principle to better handle a sharp supply shortage amid the fast spread of the new coronavirus, the prime minister said Thursday.

The government has been exploring ways to increase the supply of face masks as demand has far surpassed supply amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Presiding over an emergency Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government has drawn up measures to rev up the supply of face masks and distribute them to the public fairly.

"The government will first provide masks to the medical, quarantine and safety sectors and seeks to evenly distribute the remaining masks to people," Chung said.

To this end, the government will set up a computerized system to prevent repeated sales to the same person and ban mask exports in principle, he added.

The meeting was held to approve an emergency plan to ease an imbalance in supply and demand of special filters embedded in face masks.

South Korea decided last week to limit mask exports to a maximum of 10 percent of total output and distribute 50 percent through government and public organizations.

Despite the government's measures, many people are waiting in long lines for hours to purchase masks provided via public channels, complaining about short supply.

Chung also unveiled measures to resolve an imbalance in supply and demand for melt-blown nonwoven fabrics, materials used to produce mask filters.

"We will order producers and sellers of the filter fabrics to report their daily output and sales volumes to the government. If necessary, the government will adjust quantity (of production and sales) and distribution channels."

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun presides over a Cabinet meeting on the government's response to the new coronavirus through a video conference at the city hall of Daegu, 302 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on March 5, 2020. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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