(ATTN: ADDS more info in para 5-6, 11)
SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Thursday it has begun supplying imported filters to local mask producers amid lingering shortages of the items in the country following the spread of the new coronavirus that has infected more than 9,000 here.
The 2.5 tons of imported melt-blown nonwoven fabric filters will be supplied to four local mask producers, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The amount is enough to produce 2.5 million protective masks.
South Korea said earlier this month it plans to import at least 53 tons of mask filters through June to keep up the supply of the items.
The second batch of 4.5 tons will arrive here next week, it added.
South Korea has been making efforts to speed up manufacturing by renovating production lines.
Starting next week, Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc., a local affiliate of Japanese chemical giant Toray Industries Inc., will produce 13 tons of such filters daily at facilities that used to make diaper materials, according to the ministry.
The moves came as some mask producers in the country were on the verge of suspending operations due to shortages of the material.
The country has run short of protective masks despite a sharp increase in daily output, as demand jumped as well.
The daily output of protective masks came to 12 million last week, soaring from around 3 million estimated in 2019.
South Korea has adopted a rationing system for protective masks, under which people can purchase two face masks per week from pharmacies on designated days of the week, depending on their year of birth.
The country reported an additional 104 cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total to 9,241.
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