Haze: Face masks flying off shelves in no time

None left: A sign at a store in Petaling Jaya informing customers that it has run out of face masks.

PETALING JAYA - Face masks have become somewhat of a rare commodity following the deteriorating air quality.

Even Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim found it difficult to get them.

"I had to go to several pharmacies. All of them told me that the masks were out of stock," he said.

When he finally found a shop selling them, he was told that each customer was limited to just one box.

Housewife Rohana Mohd, 37, had the same experience. She said all of the shops and pharmacies she visited in her neighbourhood had no more masks left.

"I was told that new stocks would only arrive in a few days' time," said the mother of one who lives in Subang.

Student Puteri Nurasyiqin Ahmad, 20, said that even big stores in Kota Damansara had no stock.

"I was told that many customers had bought the item in bulk as they do not know how long the haze will persist," she said.

In George Town, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya warned traders not to raise the price of face masks.

"Although there have been no complaints so far, my ministry, together with the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry, will monitor the prices," he said.

Dr Hilmi said despite the high demand, "there was still sufficient supply of masks in the country".

In Sepang, Selangor Health Department director Datuk Dr Azman Abu Bakar said face masks would be made available to the public at all government hospitals.

"The priority will be for those in high-risk groups, especially children and the elderly," he said.

He said state Health departments had been told to set up operations centres to keep tabs on any spike in haze-related illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, conjunctivitis and allergic reactions.