Outrage over mask shortages situation in Thailand

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Public complaints grew louder on Monday over the continuing lack of masks on the back of heightened concerns over the spread of Covid-19, which claimed the life of the 35-year-old man on Saturday night — the first reported death from the virus in the country. People are crying foul over the shortage of masks amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, triggered by the death of a Thai man who was diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus.

One more infection was reported on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 43. The new patient was a 22-year-old Thai woman, who worked as a tour guide along with an already infected Thai, a driver for foreign tourists. The Private Hospital Association also said their medical personnel have been seriously affected by the mask shortage.

The government has already tried to assure people that masks are being adequately and fairly distributed nationwide. The Commerce Ministry, for instance, is imposing penalties on shops and sellers who jack up the prices of masks for a quick profit.

Whichai Phochanakij, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said the demand for masks has surged fivefold from normal levels. He said authorities will review their distribution methods because Thai manufacturers only have the capacity to make 1.35 million masks a day. Mr Whichai also said that raw materials from China have been in short supply and producers have had to import most of them from Indonesia, which consequently raises production costs.

Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has instructed the department to dispatch 111 mobile outlets to sell the masks directly to people across the country starting from Thursday, said Mr Whichai. He said 21 mobile outlets will be located in Bangkok and surrounding provinces, while the rest will be in other provinces. Each mobile outlet will sell about 10,000 masks each day and they will move to various locations so more people will have access to the masks. One person will be able to buy a pack of four masks at 2.5 baht each.

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