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Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang said as seen in the ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus, many were unaware that the face masks should only be worn by those handling patients or working to ascertain suspected infection. - NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: Panic purchases of face masks and hand sanitisers are caused by the lack of both knowledge in infection control and personal hygiene maintenance.

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang said as seen in the ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus, many were unaware that the face masks should only be worn by those handling patients or working to ascertain suspected infection.

For the average person, consistent personal hygiene maintenance such washing hands with soap is sufficient.

“For example, if everyone in the house is doing fine, then there is no need to wear face masks.

“Infection spreads through droplets, human-to-human contact and via the faecal-oral route. So if you understand how it works, the best thing you can do is just by washing your hands with soap. Even the experts believe that is the best preventive measure.”

Amrahi said the trend of panic purchases following an outbreak would only serve to promote unrest among the uninformed public following a sudden drop in the sought-after products.

“This is something like a knee-jerk reaction, (where all of sudden) saw the soaring of demand.

“If we look at the epicentre of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, the city is now facing a severe shortage as well. The same is happening here.

“Hence, the demand could not be met by the manufacturers (of face masks and hand sanitisers),” he said when contacted.

Checks at several personal care stores, pharmacies and online stores saw the supplies for face masks and hand sanitisers were scarce.

The rising fear among the public over the coronavirus had led to high demand for surgical face masks and hand sanitisers since last month.

The price of five types of face masks comes under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011.

Currently, surgical or medical mask (one layer-type) is priced at RM5 per box for wholesale (retail price RM7 per box) while surgical or medical masks (two layer-type) is RM8 per box for wholesale price (retail price RM 10 per box).

Surgical or medical mask (three layer-type) is RM25 per box for wholesale price or RM0.80 sen each in the retail price, while surgical or medical masks (three layer-type with head tie) is RM30 per box for wholesale price (retail price RM10 per box).

Surgical or medical mask (N95) is priced at RM100 per box for the wholesale price and with the retail price of RM6 each unit.

Trader or retailer found to have breached the directive is liable to fine up to RM100,000 or maximum three-years’ jail, or both, or pay a compound of RM50,000.

Companies found selling the controlled items above the ceiling prices can be fined up to RM500,000 or compounded up to RM250,000.

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