Raid on junk shop suspected of recycling used face masks
Public health officials and police raided a junk shop in Wiharn Daeng district of Thailand’s central province of Saraburi today and seized tens of thousands used and recycled face masks.
According to Mr. Somsak Kaewsena, Wiharn Daeng district chief officer, many used face masks were found in a washing machine, thousands more were laid out in the courtyard and many more recycled masks were waiting to be packed, apparently for resale.
Six men found working in the junk shop, with some separating the used masks to be washed and the others packing the recycled ones, were held for questioning.
The owner of the junk shop reportedly told the district chief officer that she bought the used masks to extract the metal wire for smelting, but police suspect that she recycled them for resale because of the current shortage in the market.
The Internal Trade Department, meanwhile, has warned hoarders of face masks that they face prison terms of up to seven years and/or fines of 140,000 baht if they are caught overcharging for the masks.
The demand for face masks has increased five-fold since the COVID-19 outbreak began in China, which has eventually spread globally.
The department head, Mr. Wichai Potchanakit, said today that they receive a quantity of new face masks from the manufacturers each day, of which 150,000 are for state hospitals, 200,000 for the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, 25,000 for the association of drug stores, 18,000 for Thai Airways International and 200,000-300,000 for the Commerce Ministry.
The masks for the Commerce Ministry are repackaged in fours, for sale at 10 baht per pack at Blue Flag shops, convenience stores and other retail outlets.
Mr. Wichai said the Internal Trade Department is not responsible for the 750,000 masks allocated to private hospitals each day by the manufacturers, adding that he has no idea whether a portion of them are sold at a high profit.