Mask sales will be limited to three packages at a time: Minister

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Mask sales will be limited to three packages at a time: Minister

Unveiling yet another measure intended to ease the nationwide shortage of protective face masks, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Tuesday the government will limit individuals’ purchases of masks.

At the National Assembly hearing on Tuesday, Hong said the government will apply the Drug Utilization Review program, or DUR, to face masks within the next three days. The DUR is a program that prevents patients from purchasing unnecessary or inappropriate medication.

“Pharmacies have a DUR system that prevents [patients] from purchasing the same drug repeatedly through identity verification,” he said. “We are currently working on reinforcing the system that will limit each person to two to three masks.”

The finance minister also expressed skepticism with the Democratic Party’s proposal to provide one free mask to each person per day.

“Ten million masks are manufactured locally per day,” Hong said. “For a population of 50 million, we’ll need 50 million masks a day on the assumption that one person is given one per day.”

He added that the measure could “increase fairness of distribution, but it’s questionable whether it would meet public demand.”

Hong said the real task was establishing a system where people who are absolutely in need have access to the masks while those who are not hold back.

The Korean government currently secures 50 percent of the country’s mask production each day and distributes them to select channels including post offices, Hanaro Mart, pharmacies and home shopping channels.

Food and Drug Safety Minister Lee Eui-kyung announced Tuesday that the government will escalate this policy beyond 50 percent but said the exact number is still being determined.

BY LEE HO-JEONG AND SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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