11 July 2024

As Thailand is about to impose control on prices and distribution of surgical masks and hand sanitizers, China said Monday it urgently needed medical equipment and surgical masks as the death toll from a new coronavirus jumped above 360.

The 57 new deaths confirmed Monday was the single-biggest daily increase since the virus was detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan, where it is believed to have jumped from animals at a market into humans.

The virus has since spread to more than 24 countries despite many governments imposing unprecedented travel bans on people coming from China.

The World Health Organization has declared the crisis a global health emergency, and the first foreign death from the virus was confirmed in the Philippines on Sunday.

“What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits, and safety goggles,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press briefing.

Authorities in provinces that are home to more than 300 million people — including Guangdong, the country’s most populous — have made it compulsory to wear masks in public in an effort to contain the virus.

But factories capable of producing around 20 million masks a day are only operating at between 60 and 70 percent of capacity, industry department spokesman Tian Yulong said, adding that supply and demand remained in “tight equilibrium” as a result of the Lunar New Year break.

Tian said authorities were taking steps to bring in masks from Europe, Japan and the US, while the foreign ministry said countries including South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and Hungary had donated medical supplies.

In Thailand, meanwhile, the committee in charge of price control of the Commerce Ministry today added surgical masks and hand sanitizers into the list of controlled goods.  The measure subjects their prices and distribution as well as their export to official control.

Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit said the measure is needed to deal with shortage and soaring prices of the two items which have been in much demand since the coronavirus outbreak. Chinese tourists have also been buying up surgical masks to bring back to China where their supplies are also running short.

Jurin said he will ask the Cabinet to approve the measure during its weekly meeting on Tuesday.