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Taiwanese public warned against profiteering amid epidemic

Those charged with price speculation to be penalized with fine up to NT$5 million

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Surgical mask factory in Changhua County

Surgical mask factory in Changhua County (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s prosecutorial system has mobilized a nationwide campaign to crack down on profiteering from the coronavirus outbreak as a spike in demand for protective gear such as surgical masks is expected.

District prosecutors’ offices have established task forces at the instructions of the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office to investigate situations in which retailers or individuals are trying to make a profit from the epidemic by raising prices on disease prevention products, reported Liberty Times. A surge in sales of such items has been triggered since the outbreak of 2019-nCoV in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last month.

The Taiwanese government has urged the public not to hoard surgical masks and promised a boost in domestic production of the commodity once factories restart work after the Lunar New Year holiday. In addition, a ban has been implemented against exporting N95 respirators and surgical masks to China amid increasing domestic demand.

Those hiking prices on masks, alcohol, and other protective products will be subject to a jail sentence ranging from one year up to seven years and a fine of up to NT$5 million (US$165,000) in compliance with the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法).

As a rush for surgical masks is seen across Asia, a pharmacy in the Chinese city of Tianjin was slapped with a hefty fine of 3 million renminbi (US$433,000) for price speculation involving increased prices for the masks, wrote Hong Kong Economic Times.