SARS scare pushes up prices of masks

  • Letters
  • Friday, 04 Apr 2003

THE RETAIL price of surgical masks has increased by some 50% after a surge in demand following the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare, according to pharmacy operators interviewed by the China Press

The daily reported that great demand for imported masks with an enhanced filter function had created a shortage and pushed up the price from RM6.50 to RM10 for each mask. 

A Klang Valley pharmacy owner said customers generally were not concerned about the price but looked for quality and durability. 

Several pharmacies said the stock of imported masks urgently needed replenishment but suppliers were unable to cope with the demand, thus the price increase. 

The price of local-made masks, however, remained between 50 sen and RM1 each. 

Nanyang Siang Pau highlighted concerns that paranoia over SARS could hamper blood donation drives and affect the supply to the blood bank if the public became over-cautious. 

Malaysian Red Crescent Society Johor Baru chapter chairman Chong Ah Ng expressed worry over the response to a weekend blood donation campaign at a shopping complex, as general feedback showed that many people would avoid crowded areas. 

However, Chong said the society was unperturbed and would drum up publicity to ensure a good attendance. 

Sin Chew Daily quoted the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) as saying that it was not legally binding for tour agencies to refund or reschedule departure dates for confirmed group tours following the SARS outbreak in several countries. 

Its president, Tunku Iskandar Tunku Abdullah, told the daily that unless the World Health Organisation formally issued a directive to ban travelling to the affected countries, it would be up to the goodwill of individual agencies to meet clients' requests.  

He was responding to complaints from the public that several agencies had refused to refund deposits or entertain requests to defer tours scheduled in mid-April to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. 

Tunku Iskandar said the terms and conditions were clearly spelt out on the tour package forms and customers should study them carefully before making a decision. 

He said the tour agencies would do their best to accommodate the requests, asthey were cash-strapped due to prior arrangements with overseas hotels and airlines.  

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