Doctors and hospitals also cannot get face masks

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has wreaked havoc to the economies around the world with share markets in free fall, including Bursa Malaysia. More new cases are being reported outside China everyday now. Italy had been particularly badly hit with doubling of cases and mortality rapidly.

Malaysia has not been spared. Government had imposed Movement Control Order from 18/03/2020 until 31/03/2020.

The demand for face masks had skyrocketed ever since the pandemic. There were long queues around the world to purchase them wherever they were available. Very often, no face mask are available at all much to the extreme anguish of many people.

The government had lifted the ceiling price of a 3-ply face mask from 80 cents to RM2 per unit to encourage local manufacturers to produce more.

Unfortunately, even the hospitals and doctors are having difficulties getting the face masks nowadays.

In the hospital I work in, face masks were freely provided to doctors and nurses to protect themselves and patients up to last week. However, we are already running low on the supply to the extent that the hospital is contemplating closing down the operating theatres and wards.

The suppliers are now also asking for ever higher price from the hospitals and doctors, knowing very well there is a more hungry market out there.

One of the reasons why the face masks are not reaching the hospitals, doctors and nurses is the suppliers are selling them to the public who are prepared to pay premium price for them, openly, or in the black market.

I hereby urge the government to take full control of the 10 million face masks from China and make sure they reach the essential frontline workers and hospitals, but not to be exploited by the profiteering black market.

Dr Ko Chung Sen
Media statement by Dr. Ko Chung Sen in Ipoh on Sunday, 22nd March 2020