Scalpers in S'pore reselling box of 50 surgical masks at S$30, 600% original price

Out to make a quick buck.

Belmont Lay | January 30, 2020, 09:23 AM

Surgical masks are being resold online at 500 percent their original prices as a shortage in Singapore is seeing scalpers trying their luck at making a quick buck.

On online marketplace Carousell, prices range from S$1.50 for one single non-reusable piece to S$30 to S$40 per box containing 50 pieces.

The usual price is about S$5 for box of 50 surgical masks.

Even though they are priced at S$30 per box, some of the listings reflect that the masks are sold out indicating that there is still demand at these rates.

Face masks of all varieties have been snapped up immediately as a result of panic-buying the past week, leading to stock being sold out all over the island.

Other listings on Carousell show N95 masks being offered for S$5 per piece, even though people have been discouraged from using these as they are tougher to wear for prolonged periods of time and meant for healthcare professionals used to the discomfort they bring.

At Mustafa Centre, one box of 20 N95 masks was retailing at S$30.

Sellers will be suspended

In response to the scalping behaviour, both Carousell and another online marketplace Qoo10 have threatened to suspend sellers who charge highly inflated prices.

On Jan. 29, Qoo10 removed a listing that advertised 30 masks for sale at S$10,000.

Merchants who attempt to profit off the general public’s worry and panic, or to hike up prices even as a joke, would not be tolerated, Qoo10 said.

Long queues for masks

As a testament to the demand for masks, photos and videos have emerged online showing long queues outside Guardian and Watsons personal care stores.

Retailers have said that they are working with suppliers to bring in more stocks of masks.

The Singapore government also clarified on Wednesday, Jan. 29 that people who are well do not need to wear a mask.

A surgical mask should be worn only if you feel unwell and have respiratory symptoms like a cough or a runny nose, the government said.

Other items resold

Besides taking advantage of the shortage of masks to jack up prices, hand sanitisers are also being resold at much higher prices.

A 50ml bottle of Dettol hand sanitiser is going for S$4.50 on Carousell, which has hundreds of fresh listings the past few days.

The usual price is S$3.30.