Face masks 'snapped up right away'
Supplies run short despite assurances
Despite Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's assurance about the availability of surgical face masks, some pharmacies and convenience stores in two Bangkok districts were found to be running short on supplies.
The Bangkok Post on Tuesday surveyed shops selling this highly-sought protective gear in Lat Phrao and Chatuchak districts, and spoke to owners and staff who all said their stocks had run out amid the coronavirus outbreak and air pollution.
Only a few face masks were available in Lat Phrao's Chok Chai 4 area. A large sign declaring "face masks and alcohol-based hand sanitisers are out of stock" was also seen at a big drug store. Upon enquiry, a store's staff member said she did not know when they would be available again.
A fast-depleting stock of 3D black face masks, going for 30 baht each, was found at another drug store nearby.
"They can protect against PM2.5 dust particles and pathogens. We used to sell five-piece packs of green face masks at 25 baht, but they are now out of stock. Since face masks are now a controlled item, their prices will not go up dramatically," she said.
Health officials hand out face masks to taxi drivers at Don Mueang airport in a campaign to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Apichit Jinakul
However, the owner of another store nearby disagreed, saying prices vary based on demand and supply. "We can determine the price once suppliers send them. The price is rising due to the shortage, but we are not overcharging. At the moment, we only have paper masks costing 20 baht each," she said.
Pharmacies in Lat Phrao's Saphan 2 Market area also said face masks are bought up as soon as they arrive. A state-run drug store said it has had over 2,000 purchase orders for green face masks.
"A 50-piece box of green face masks now costs 350 baht, up from 250 baht. Now, only [Japanese] pitta and cartoon face masks are available," she said.
Only one drug store was found selling green face masks at 20 baht apiece, "but they will soon run out like the N95 masks", the owner said.
The owner of another large pharmacy close to Phiboon Uppatham School in Lat Phrao said green face masks and N95 masks are out of stock indefinitely.
"The N95 masks are imported from different places, such as China, South Korea and Japan, while the green ones are made locally. You can buy them, but the price is rising due to hoarding. The wholesale price of a green mask is no more than 2 baht, but has now gone up to 7 baht apiece," he said.
Two convenience stores at Chatuchak BTS station were also found to have run out of green face masks. Their staff said they had procured around 10 boxes on Tuesday morning, but were now sold out.
A taxi driver uses disinfectant to clean inside his vehicle. Apichit Jinakul