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Putrajaya Now Says There Was No Reason To Hike Face Mask Prices By 150%

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri today, 22 March said that the government will discuss the matter on Monday, and if possible, they would like the ceiling price back to what had been set before.

Cover image via Malay Mail Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

Facing criticism over its earlier decision to hike the price for three-ply face masks by 150%, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob today, 22 March, said that the government will review the new ceiling prices

Ismail Sabri, who is also the Minister of Defence in the Perikatan Nasional government, was speaking to reporters during a special press conference after chairing the ministers special meeting on Movement Control Order (MCO) in Putrajaya when he admitted that there was no reason for the price hike.

The Senior Minister said that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin disagrees with the increment, adding that he "voiced his disagreement over the really sharp increase in ceiling price."

"The price of the ceiling mask set to RM2 is too high, so the Prime Minister did not agree," he said.

The price hike was announced on Friday, 20 March, by Alexander Nanta Linggi, who holds the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) portfolio.

"By allowing face masks to be sold at RM2, we hope to encourage local manufacturers to produce more. With this, we hope to increase the availability of face masks," Alexander had reasoned.

File photo of Ismail Sabri Yaakob speaking during a press conference in Putrajaya.

Image via Malay Mail

He said that the government will discuss the matter tomorrow

"The KPDNHEP will review it, and we want the price to go lower, and if possible, back to what had been set before," Ismail said during the special press conference, as reported by Malaysiakini.

"There was no reason to increase the ceiling price as the government has agreed to waive the import duties for face masks. We will decide on this tomorrow," he added.

It was reported that currently there is a shortage of face masks in the country as the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread

In its report on Saturday, 21 March, New Straits Times quoted the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N. Ganabaskaran calling on the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) and relevant ministries to resolve the shortage of face masks for healthcare workers.

"The issue of face mask shortage has been highlighted since the outbreak in early February 2020, it has made national news and every citizen is aware of this," he said in a statement yesterday.

"It is disappointing to even have to go to the press to highlight this," he added.

Dr Ganabaskaran said that Personal Protection Equipment ( PPE ) like face masks were a basic necessity when seeing patients who may carry Covid-10 infectious disease.

"The Ministry of Health which is already overwhelmed is also helping in sourcing this item - a job that should be top priority now and handled by the KPDNHEP given its urgency. What has this ministry been doing to address this issue?" Dr Ganabaskaran was quoted as saying.

Image via Mukhriz Hazim

Previously, the prices were increased from 80 sen to RM2 per piece:

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