PM: Govt to buy face masks and distribute to public for free

Malaysia Civil Defence Force personnel distributing protective face masks to the public in Kuala Lumpur March 21, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Malaysia Civil Defence Force personnel distributing protective face masks to the public in Kuala Lumpur March 21, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin today announced that the government will purchase and distribute face masks to all Malaysians for free, in a bid to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in making the announcement today, said price of the masks, at around RM1.18 per piece, will be absorbed by the government.

 “I have agreed and would like to announce that when it (face masks) reaches, we will distribute it for free to all Malaysians who need it.

“This is the contribution of the government during times of crisis which we are facing now,” he said during a special address this afternoon.

He said instructions have been given to the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) to prepare financial details and to expedite the order and shipment.

It is understood this order differs from the recently announced batch of 10 million facemasks currently being shipped from China meant for the Health Ministry front liners.

Muhyiddin today explained that local manufacturers were currently facing shortages in raw materials needed to make the face masks, most of which are sourced from suppliers overseas.

He said efforts have been put in place to address this issue, saying local manufacturers are said to be able to supply from two to three million masks a month when operating within normal conditions.

“We hope the issue (of shortages) can be solved and if that can be achieved, the capacity of the production of face masks locally, I have been told is around two to three million a month.

“If that can be achieved I think the suppler here will be in abundance,” he said.

The prime minister added that discussions between the government and stakeholders to set the ceiling price of face masks at a reasonable value are being conducted by the relevant ministries, namely the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

“We hope parties involved such as the manufacturing factories will decide that sufficient supply is prioritised and set a price that is reasonable.

“Those are my instructions and I hope that the factories and manufacturers will agree with the appeal of the responsible ministries so that the price that is set is a reasonable one,” he said.

Malaysia today entered its sixth day of a two-week shutdown to break the chain of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has since taken the lives of 11, with 1,306 Covid-19 cases reported to date.

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