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Hanoi medical supplies stores fined for inflating face masks prices

Saturday, February 01, 2020, 15:16 GMT+7
Hanoi medical supplies stores fined for inflating face masks prices
People are seen wearing face masks outside an isolation area at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi. Photo: Viet Dung / Tuoi Tre

Two medical stores in Hanoi have been fined for hiking up the prices of their face masks by 5-7 times amid fears of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Vietnam, where six cases of infection have been confirmed.

The economic police unit of Hanoi on Friday inspected local medical supplies stores suspected of taking advantage of the spreading 2019-nCoV to inflate face masks prices.

A store located at 120 Ngoc Khanh Street in Ba Dinh District admitted to having sold 30 boxes of surgical masks on Friday by the time of the inspection for VND130,000-220,000 (US$5.63-9.52) each.

The items normally fetch only VND50,000 ($2.16) a box.

A next-door store, located at 118 Ngoc Khanh Street, declared that it had sold 134 boxes of surgical masks on the same day at prices of VND300,000-350,000 ($13-15.15) a box, which is 6-7 times higher than the normal price.

Nearly 1,000 face masks without proofs of purchase and origin were also seized from the two venues.

The two stores were slapped with fines of VND20 million-30 million ($865-1,300) each for the illegal price hikes.

The stores must also remit the proceeds from their sales of the overpriced masks.

Police is working with representatives from a pharmacy which hiked face masks price over a new coronavirus outbreak in Hanoi. Photo: Supplied
Police officers work with a representative of a medical supplies store which hiked up face masks prices in Hanoi on January 31, 2020 in this provided photo.

According to Colonel Phung Anh Le, head of the economic police division under the Hanoi police bureau, many stores selling medical equipment have been stocking up on face masks and taken advantage of people’s fears for the new coronavirus to inflate their prices.

The virus which first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 has caused 259 deaths in China and infected nearly 12,000 people globally as of Saturday.

It has spread to 25 countries and territories spreading including Vietnam, where four Vietnamese and two Chinese nationals have been confirmed with the 2019-nCoV infection.

One of the Chinese patients, 28-year-old Li Zichao, has fully recovered from the disease but remains monitored at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

News of the infected patients in Vietnam has fueled fears among the public as well as increased local demand for face masks, one of the measures believed to reduce the risk of infection.

Over the past days, face masks have become sought-after in many places across Vietnam, with many pharmacies putting out signs to announce that they have sold out all their face masks and hand sanitizers.

In an effort to curb the price inflation, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam recently requested authorities to immediately withdraw the business licenses of any pharmacy and medical supplies store found raising their prices unreasonably.

“From now on, if the people provide evidence on any pharmacy hiking up their face masks prices, the Ministry of Health should immediately revoke the store’s license without waiting for a conclusion from inspectors,” the Deputy PM said at an online conference on preventing the epidemic on Saturday.

“This is a matter of discipline and morality,” he emphasized.

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