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(2nd LD) PM urges cooperation for 'smooth' mask distribution amid virus angst

All News 20:50 March 08, 2020

(ATTN: MOVES 2nd photo; UPDATES figures in last para)

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's prime minister on Sunday called for citizens' cooperation to resolve the supply shortage of face masks and ensure smooth distribution amid growing public anger over the bungled supply scheme.

Under the measure that will take effect Monday, citizens will be able to buy only two protective masks per week from pharmacies, on designated days of the week, depending on the final number of their year of birth.

"To make the system smoothly operate, there is a desperate need for people to actively cooperate," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a televised message to the public.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun holds a meeting with government officials over the new coronavirus in the city hall of the southeastern city of Gyeongsan on March 6, 2020. (Yonhap)

"Even if you feel inconvenient, I ask you to show a mature sense of civil awareness, based on concessions, consideration and cooperation, so that people who really need face masks can buy them," he stressed.

The goal of the measure is to allow an even distribution of face masks amid a serious supply shortage, as many people have had to wait in long lines to purchase them through designated public channels.

On Feb. 25, South Korea decided 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, citizens were waiting in long lines for hours to purchase a few masks via public channels, complaining about short supply.

Last week, the government decided to effectively ban mask exports and implement a new distribution system that restricts the supply of masks to two per person from five via public channels.

South Korea also unveiled a revised guideline that temporarily advises the reuse of cotton or disposable masks in environments with a low risk of infection.

The country had reported 179 additional cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, bringing the total number of infections here to 7,313.

Citizens wait in long lines in front of a pharmacy in Jongno, central Seoul, on March 6, 2020, to buy face masks provided by the government via public channels. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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