The Jakarta Post
As regions across the country are hit with shortages and the rising price of face masks following Indonesia's first confirmed COVID-19 cases, Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini has admitted that her administration had been hoarding masks to be distributed when necessary.
"Truthfully, I have been hoarding masks since January," she said at the Tropical Disease Center of Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, on Tuesday as quoted by kompas.com.
She said she had instructed her staff to buy masks during the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, without informing the public to avoid panic.
Risma did not disclose just how many masks her administration had been hoarding, saying she would only distribute them when the impacts of COVID-19 were felt in the city.
"Later, when we have to, we will distribute them," she said.
The mayor added that only people who are sick — coughing, showing flu symptoms and have difficulty breathing — should wear masks but everyone should wash their hands frequently and immediately go to a hospital when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Cities across Indonesia have had to deal with mask shortages for the past three weeks.
Wahyu Handoko, the owner of a medical supplies store in Surakarta, Central Jakarta, said his store kept running out of masks and as a result, prices have spiked from Rp 20,000 (US$1.42) per box to around Rp 200,000.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has spoken out against hoarding as people across the country go on panic buying sprees, saying that the government and the private sector had enough food and non-food supplies, including around 50 million face masks, to meet public demand.
The President has also instructed the National Police chief to crack down on individuals hoarding and reselling face masks. (ars)