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Commerce ministry sets price ceiling for face masks

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has stipulated the sale price of face masks in a bid to keep the price at a level that people on low incomes can afford.
The price has skyrocketed in recent days as people flocked to pharmacies to buy the masks as protection against the coronavirus. This has led to a shortage of masks and hand sanitiser amid ever spiralling prices.
Last week the ministry issued Notice No. 142, setting the retail price of three-layer masks at a maximum of 25,000 kip for a box of 50, while a single mask must not be sold for more than 1,000 kip.

Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office had instructed the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to regulate the price of face masks by taking steps to prevent vendors using the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to increase the cost.
The government plans to buy masks from other countries for use in Laos and to supply them to China, where the virus has infected nearly 31,200 people and killed nearly 640, according to www.gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com
The ministry’s notice states that pharmacies, legal entities, and individuals may not increase the price of face masks and similar items or stock them for unreasonable gain, otherwise they will face legal action.
To enforce the notice, the Vientiane and provincial Industry and Commerce departments and related sectors have set up committees to regularly check the price of such items in pharmacies and retail shops.
The notice also states that anyone who finds vendors selling masks and other medical supplies for more than the stipulated price should report the matter using consumer protection hotline number 1510 or the government hotline number 1516.
Anyone found contravening this notice will face criminal or civil charges and may even have their business licence revoked.
Laos imports face masks from China, Vietnam and other countries. At present the supply from China has dried up due to the spike in demand in that country.
Medical equipment companies in Laos have temporarily stopped selling face masks to the public and pharmacy stores as they no longer have any in stock.
Officials say the government should encourage local companies to make masks to ensure sufficient supply.

By Souksamai Boulom
(Latest Update February 10, 2020)

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