Pharmacies in JB run out of face masks

JOHOR BARU: Most pharmacies here have run out of face masks with some even posting up signs telling customers that the item was not available.

Checks at pharmacies here revealed that only a small number of three ply face masks were available.

The more durable N95 masks were not available at all.

An assistant at a pharmacy in Plaza Sentosa here, who declined to be named, said it might take a few days before the three-ply face masks stock arrived, as the supplier had ran out of stock.

She added that the N95 masks were also not available as the last time it was mass produced was during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Another pharmacy assistant, who wanted to be known as Wong, said that they were forced to turn down hundreds of customers looking for face masks.

She added that most of the pharmacies have retained the price of masks but have chosen to limit the number purchased by each customer.

Checks by The Star revealed that a pack of 50 face masks were sold from between RM15 and RM25.

Masks packed in packages of five were sold for RM2.

Meanwhile, many parents and students who were unaware of the state Education Department's order for schools in Pasir Gudang to be closed yesterday were greeted by closed gates in the morning.

Restaurant operator Halmi Yahya, 46, who sent his Year Five daughter to school at SK Masai in Pasir Gudang here were among those unaware of the decision.

He suggested that such announcement be made through the media and posted on the department's website so that parents and teachers would not be caught by surprise.

Another parent, construction worker G. Siva, 35, left home at around 6.30am to send his son to school at SJKT Masai.

"It is good that the schools are closed temporarily because my son has been complaining of dry eyes because of the haze," he said.

Housewife Lim Shu Hwa, 39, hoped that the education department would not be in a rush to reopen the schools on Monday if the situation did not improve.

The mother-of-two added that her two daughters, who went to SK Masai, have both been suffering from sore throat and itchy eyes.

State Education director Mohd Nor A Ghani will decide on Sunday if schools in the districts with high air pollutant index (API) will remain closed on Monday.

In Putrajaya, the Education Ministry said the haze condition has resulted in the closure of 600 schools affecting about 320,000 students in Johor.

Separately, several anglers who went fishing were getting lost at sea due to poor visibility caused by the haze, said Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Southern Region enforcement chief Maritime First Admiral Adon Shalan.

There had been three reported incidents where officers were called to help locate those lost at sea.

The cases were reported near Kota Tinggi and Pengerang, where haze levels are high.