The government will pass a law imposing heavier fines on companies that try to profit from the new coronavirus outbreak by hoarding face masks.
The new regulation, which will go into effect on Wednesday, will punish anyone or a company that engages in the hoarding of face masks by imposing a prison sentence of a maximum two years or a maximum fine of 50 million won ($42,108).
The decision came after there has been a shortage of masks in Korea as the new coronavirus outbreak sparked a sharp rise in demand for such masks. On Monday, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said hoarding caused the shortage.
“Market manipulation of face masks, such as price rigging, will be treated as administrative and criminal offenses,” Hong said.
The government will also crackdown on any illegal profiteering by forming a task force composed of 120 officials from relevant ministries.
While the Koreans were bent on securing face masks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, draw attention by announcing that wearing masks is not effective or even unnecessary for preventing infection of the new coronavirus. Along with this advice, the CDC told people not to visit China and not treat Asians with potentially infectious agents.
Meanwhile, the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said that the 16th confirmed patient, a 42-year-old Korean woman who arrived here on Jan. 20 after traveling Thailand, was placed in quarantine and it is conducting an epidemiological investigation to find out where she had been and whom she met.
However, tracking the patient’s whereabouts can be tricky as the patient had moved here without any restrictions for about two weeks before she was quarantined.
The agency said, however, it is not considering designating Thailand as a travel restricted country because of this case.
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