Many Indonesians have gone into panic mode following Monday’s announcement of the country’s first COVID-19 cases, with reports of widespread hoarding of food and medical supplies. Inevitably, traders have taken advantage of such alarmism by stockpiling essential goods and unreasonably driving up their prices, including, of course, those of face masks.
The Jakarta Metro Police yesterday raided a warehouse in Neglasari, Tangerang and found some 11 thousand boxes of the in-demand item.
“The raid was related to a suspicion of a stockpiling of face masks and their sale without any distribution permit,” Jakarta Metro Police Special Crimes Investigation Unit Director Iwan Kurniawan told reporters yesterday, as quoted by Kumparan.
Iwan added that each box, which were going to be sold for up to IDR360,000 (US$26.84) each, contains 50 single-use face masks. Forty of the boxes were stored inside larger cardboard boxes, which were stacked up inside the warehouse.
Police have identified two people as the owners of the face masks, both of whom have not yet been charged with any crime.
“We’re still developing [the case],” Iwan said.
Jokowi’s hoarding warning
The raid at the warehouse came after President Joko Widodo yesterday said that he has instructed the National Police to crack down on people and businesses who stockpile essential goods, including face masks.
“Based on the information I have received, there are more or less 50 million face masks in the country,” Jokowi told reporters at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta yesterday, as quoted by CNBC Indonesia.
The police said that anyone caught stockpiling essential goods and therefore manipulating the supply of said goods in the market may face up to five years in prison in accordance with Indonesia’s customer protection laws.
After weeks of claiming it was free of infections and shielded by prayer, Indonesia finally announced its first coronavirus cases on March 2 amid growing reports elsewhere involving patients who recently visited the archipelago. Several new cases reported in Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore in the last few days have involved patients who recently traveled to Indonesia.
The first people to be diagnosed with COVID-19 in Indonesia — a 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter — are making inroads towards recovery, officials say.