The government has reiterated its warning that it is considering taking legal action against traders, particularly pharmacy owners, who are selling surgical masks at unreasonably high prices. It could even include confiscating the protection-offering products and ordering chemists to shut down.
The move comes as the number of those affected by COVID-19 continues to increase in the country. Total cases climbed to 96 on Thursday afternoon. There is concern that price-hiking to as much as $27 will prohibit those on low incomes from buying the masks to protect themselves from the virus. “Please be informed that the government is now considering legal action if markets and pharmacies are found to be selling surgical masks at high prices,” said Seang Thay, spokesperson at the Ministry of Commerce (MOC). He also warned that pharmacies found to be exploiting the current situation for financial gain could face closure.
A key duty for the MOC is to stabilise the price of goods within the local market. “The ministry will work with relevant authorities to take proper measures against those who substantially increase prices that could precipitate chaos in society,” Seang said.
The government has yet to specify the exact price that it considers too high.
Meng So Phanny, from Phnom Penh, said she wanted to buy surgical masks this week at the Olympic Market and pharmacies nearby and found Vietnamese versions selling at $20 per box and $27 for a hi-tech brand. But one owner of Pharmacie Reachsey Chouk Meas in Phnom Penh, said some boxes of face masks cost $19.50 and are sold for up to $20 per box because they are of higher quality.