Mask thieves, price gougers will be punished, says Tufton

Mask thieves, price gougers will be punished, says Tufton

Observer staff reporter

Saturday, March 14, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton yesterday launched a broadside against people stealing and reselling masks originally provided to public hospitals. He warned that anyone caught selling the items would be prosecuted.

“I want to... discourage those who are so tempted and motivated, [to steal], and I further want to say that if we identify any individual using this opportunity to steal the public property and then... sell it for profit, on both counts it is immoral, it is illegal, and we will use the law to penalise those persons,” Dr Tufton told stakeholders at Montego Bay Convention Centre, yesterday.

Over the past few weeks there has been a growing demand for masks, and this has increased since the country's first cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed.

“I have seen in the marketplaces, in recent days, persons selling masks. Some of those masks look very much like the masks that the hospitals have in storage to be used in the public sector. And I have had the reports that there is a lot of misplacements, if you will, to be diplomatic, of our own supplies,” said the health minister.

He added that he has instructed hospital administrators to exercise greater control to “avoid the stealing of our supplies that taxpayers pay for, that is to be used for the taxpayers' interest”.

The health minister also warned that peopole engaged in price gouging will also be penalised.

“I am a believer in the free market but when you have extraordinary circumstances like these, you have to now regulate in the national interest. So I want to say [for] all to recognise and hear, if we determine as a Government that there are persons out there who have decided to exploit the health threat of the population by price gouging or hoarding, the laws can be triggered to give protection for the greater good of society,” said Dr Tufton. “And I want to say further that the Government will do it, because, frankly speaking, it is tantamount to exploiting the risk and the challenges of a society by engaging in this.”

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