BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s health authorities on Thursday encouraged people to make hand sanitizers and masks at home to guard against the spread of the new coronavirus.
Thailand, which has reported a total of 25 cases, put surgical masks and sanitizers under its list of controlled goods earlier this week, as the spread of the flu-like virus led to shortages in stores.
Due to lack of supply, health authorities demonstrated how to make sanitising liquids during a televised news conference.
“If you can’t find hand sanitizers in stores, make it yourself. Mix clean water with alcohol and carry it wherever you go,” said Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul at the conference.
“We have to protect ourselves against the virus. Eat hot food, use serving spoons, wear masks, wash your hands.”
On Thursday, Thailand started enforcing price control measures on surgical masks and hand sanitizers, amid scarce supplies in drug stores.
As a result, anyone selling overpriced masks and sanitizers faces punishment of up to seven years in jail or up to 140,000 baht ($4,507.41) in fines.
People are allowed to buy up to 10 masks with each purchase, and anyone exporting more than 500 masks per shipment must also obtain permission from trade authorities first.
Early on Thursday, Thais lined up outside a government pharmacy to stock up before sales started in the afternoon.
Many said they wanted to buy as much as they could due to fears of the virus outbreak, but could only buy 10.
“This isn’t really enough, but it’s good to have just in case,” said Chalida Potpanitpong, 65.
To ease the shortages, the Thai government started handing out 45,000 surgical masks for free from Thursday to Saturday at different “risky” locations, mostly tourist areas, in Bangkok.
It will also start selling millions of masks from Saturday onwards through government-sponsored stores across the country.
The 25 cases of the new coronavirus reported in Thailand include 16 Chinese and nine Thais. Nine have recovered enough to go home, while the rest remain in the hospital.
Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Alex Richardson