SHIZUOKA (TR) – With shortages of breathing masks coinciding with the rise of the number of cases of novel coronavirus nationwide, a Shizuoka prefectural assemblymen has been found to have sold tens of thousands of masks at highly inflated prices, reports NHK (Mar. 7).
On more than 40 occasions since the middle of February, Hiryouki Morota, 53, sold sets of 2,000 breathing masks on site Yahoo! Japan Auctions. Most of auctions ended at prices between 120,000 and 150,000 yen, or between 60 and 75 yen per mask.
For reference, the price of a set of 60 masks might have run 730 yen — around 12 yen per mask — before the outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
When reached for comment by NHK, Morota acknowledged the sales, saying that the masks had been purchased from China during the MERS pandemic several years ago.
“I was just listing existing inventory. It was not a resale, so there was no problem,” Morota was quoted by the network.
However, the assemblyman had halted all such auctions as of Friday, when one listing had reached a price of 740,000 yen, according to the Shizuka Shimbun (Mar. 7)
The auctions, which were promoted on Twitter, started at 1 yen. “The prices were decided by the market. I am sorry for anyone who feels uncomfortable,” Morota added.
Restrictions on auction sites
On February 28, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry requested that auction sites refrain from allowing listings of masks and antiseptics from March 14. The reason for the request is to halt the listings is to discourage the buying up of masks for resale.
Morota represents a district in Yaizu City. He was elected to the prefectural assembly last year. On March 8, he plans to hold a press conference to discuss the sales of the masks.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said that as of Friday morning the total number of cases of coronavirus had reached 1,057.
The figure includes 706 persons from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at Yokohama Port.