South Korea halts exports of face masks

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    SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 28: People wearing masks to prevent the coronavirus (COVID-19) buy face masks at a department store on February 28, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. Government has raised the coronavirus alert to the "highest level" as confirmed case numbers keep rising. Government reported 571 new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) bringing the total number of infections in the nation to 2,337 with the potentially fatal illness spreading fast across the country. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

    Face masks produced in South Korea will no longer be exported abroad as of tomorrow, the country’s vice finance minister said today.

    This move comes amid the largest coronavirus outbreak outside China, and after much public criticism of the government for severe shortages of face masks, resulting in citizens waiting long hours at designated locations to purchase them in limited numbers.

    The government had previously restricted the export of face masks, allowing up to 10% of those produced to be exported until April 30.

    South Korea has reported more than 5,700 cases of the virus and 35 deaths.

    Face mask supply: South Korea is aiming to increase its daily mask output from 10 million to at least 13 million, authorities said.

    Masks will be distributed mainly to pharmacies, post offices, and government locations for citizens to purchase.

    Starting from Monday, each citizen can purchase up to two masks per week. The government will monitor sales through a computerized system, to prevent people from buying more than their share.

    The government will also designate certain days of the week for citizens to purchase masks after presenting their identification cards, to avoid big crowds of shoppers.

    Mask price: The finance ministry will also price all masks distributed by the government at $1.27 (1,500 Korean won), and it may set a maximum price limit for private sellers.

    The government will reward anyone who reports on illegal business transactions of mask sales.

    Source: CNN

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