Manufacturers told to step up output amidst panic
Shortage leading to price gouging
The Industry Ministry has ordered manufacturers of facial masks and alcohol-based hand gels to boost their production capacities to serve escalating demand and overcome shortages and price gouging caused by panic surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak.
The ministry said Thailand produces around 500 million face masks per year, some 1-1.2 million pieces per day, from local companies.
Kobchai Sungsitthisawad, the industry permanent secretary, said the Industry Ministry has been closely monitoring the situation and cooperating with local manufacturers to update production capacities of their plants.
"The ministry has ordered the Industrial Works Department and the Industrial Provincial Office to cooperate and work closely with manufacturing plants, and the government is confident there will not be a shortage of face masks," he said.
For alcohol-based gel, the ministry is in the process of collecting information from manufacturers about production capacities.
"The government is not concerned yet about alcohol-based hand gel because people can prevent the Covid-19 outbreak by washing their hands regularly," said Mr Kobchai.
The ministry will strictly monitor factories to prevent operators from repackaging old face masks, something reported to be happening in China.
Thailand has 10 factories that produce face masks in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai and Phetchaburi.
"The factories have ample production capacity to supply the domestic market," he said.
Mr Kobchai said the Industry Ministry has a duty to take care of manufacturing plants and production capacity, while the Commerce Ministry has a duty to take care of commercial aspects and price controls.
Adisorn Apasuthirat, chairman of the Medical and Health Device Manufacture Industry Club (MeDic), said the club is cooperating with the government in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
MeDic will provide information about medical devices to the government.
The agency can supply medical devices to the government and businesses. MeDic has body thermometer equipment to supply hospitals in Thailand and overseas.
He said the club has no plans to delay or stop production of medical devices.
MeDic is made up of 60 domestic medical device companies, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises.
However, MeDic expects the Covid-19 outbreak will recede over the dry season because high temperatures will slow the virus, as well as a competent government response to the crisis.