GEORGE TOWN: A consumer group today urged the government to take over the import and supply of face masks in the country to address the shortage as the number of Covid-19 cases rises worldwide.
Consumers’ Association of Penang president Mohideen Abdul Kader said this is necessary to reduce the price of face masks in the market.
He said currently, face masks were distributed according to priority, where hospitals got them first, followed by clinics and then major medical suppliers.
“So this leaves whatever that is in the balance up for grabs by independent pharmacies.
“The government’s intervention in controlling the stocks that come from manufacturers is important because at critical times like this, the affordability of face masks determines the outreach to the public who need them in preventing infection,” he said in a statement today.
Mohideen said it also did not help when Malaysia had very few local face mask producers, with limited capacity.
He said while local factories had increased their output by churning out five million masks per month, that too was not enough.
He said the current local production of face masks worked out to an average of 170,000 face masks per day or a mere 0.5% against the country’s population of 32 million.
“China could only produce up to 20 million face masks per day to meet the needs of its 1.4 billion population as of early February. That is not enough for its population and hence exports from China were halted. Hence, there is a shortage of masks in many countries, including Malaysia.”
Mohideen said while the recent implementation of a government price control on masks was welcome, it was not enough.
Since January, the government has set a ceiling wholesale price of RM5 per box for one-layered masks with earloops with a maximum retail price of RM7.
Two-layered masks are to go for RM8 per box (wholesale) and RM10 (retail); three-layered surgical masks are to be sold at RM25 per box or 80 sen per piece (retail); three-layered hijab friendly masks RM30 per box or 80 sen per piece; and N95 face masks at RM100 per box or RM6 per piece.
As of March 10, the Covid-19 has affected 116,345 victims worldwide. As of yesterday, there were 129 local cases.