'This is extortion'

'This is extortion'
Selling like hot cakes: This kiosk at Yishun MRT station sold N95 masks for $10 each. A 24-year-old man who had approached the kiosk with his girlfriend calls it extortion, and refuses to buy any. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen notes that the grossly inflated prices and "artificial shortages" have been triggered by panic buying, and reassures Singaporeans that there will be enough supplies stocked up at FairPrice and healthcare retail stores.

SINGAPORE - The search for the elusive N95 face mask continued yesterday, as prices shot up even higher in outlets that still had stocks.

The more desperate ones scoured island-wide for the masks but some refused to succumb to what they saw as extortion.

This is how one man described it when he was asked to pay $10 for a mask.

He and his girlfriend were seen approaching a kiosk at Yishun MRT station which had some N95 masks on display.

When they were told that each mask costs $10, the girlfriend, who wanted to be known only as Danielle, 22, took out her money, but he stopped her.

Grabbing her hand before she could hand over the cash, he said: "This is clearly extortion. Don't buy, don't buy."

The man, who wanted to be known only as Kenneth, 24, told The New Paper: "I won't buy it because I know that's not what a mask is supposed to cost. It's unjustifiable and outrageous."

As the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reached a new high of 401 at noon yesterday, more people are looking to exploit the situation by charging exorbitant prices for the N95 masks.

The $10 price at the Yishun kiosk is about four times higher than the recommended retail price of $1.80 to $2.50 a piece set by 3M for its N95s. When approached, the people manning the kiosk declined to comment.

But the high price did not deter some desperate buyers. A mother in her mid 30s bought two masks from the kiosk.

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