Shortage worries consumers


  • Metro News
  • Monday, 02 Mar 2020

Lee holding hand sanitisers that are still available at his stationery shop.

SEVERAL pharmacies in Ipoh have run out of three-ply surgical face masks due to high demand because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The pharmacies have been unable to restock for the last few weeks.

One worker said some customers called the pharmacy every day to check if they had face masks.

“Some people gave us their phone number and asked us to call them if the masks become available.

“Walk-in customers show up regularly to check as well, ” she said, adding that face mask suppliers could not give the pharmacy any answer on when new stock would be available.

However, hand sanitisers and wet wipes were still available at the pharmacy.

The worker said they would sell the face masks in a set of 10 pieces per customer.

A sign showing face masks are out of stock at a pharmacy. — Photos: RONNIE CHIN/The StarA sign showing face masks are out of stock at a pharmacy. — Photos: RONNIE CHIN/The Star

“Because of high demand, we could not sell it by the box. Our entire stock finished within three days, ” she added.

It was reported that some pharmacies in Kuala Lumpur claimed they were unable to stock up on face masks over the past few weeks.

Then Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail had urged local manufacturers to increase their production by another 400,000 pieces daily to ensure there was sufficient supply in the wake of Covid-19.

Both the three-ply and N95 masks are now controlled items, with the price set at 80sen and RM6 per piece respectively.

Another pharmacist said they sympathised with the plight of senior citizens, some of whom came from far away seeking face masks.

A stationery shop owner named Lee said another option was to get supplies from other countries but it was not profitable.

“As the government has put a ceiling price on face masks, business owners face losing money.

“The supplier charges between RM25 and RM30 per box and we sell the mask at 80sen per piece.

“There might still be supply from India but the price could be higher at about RM40 per box.

“We are are not allowed to sell at a higher price, ” he said, adding that some customers bought in bulk as they were afraid the face masks would be sold out.

“We only sell three-ply masks as the cost is cheaper compared to the N95 mask, ” he said.

Lee said some customers wanted to buy masks for their relatives in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore as there was also a shortage in these countries.

Administrative officer Amin Hasron managed to buy a few boxes of three-ply masks online.

“I knew the masks would run out within days. Since I have two children and my wife is pregnant, I have to make sure we have enough, ” he said.

“I managed to get five boxes while my wife bought a few more.”

Amin added that both his children wore masks daily to school.

“We were told that some daycare centres are not allowing children without face masks to enter, ” he added.

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