Coronavirus: Thai police raid recycling factory that sells used face masks as new

Police found six workers sorting out used face masks and ironing them before folding them in boxes to look like new, unused ones.
Police found six workers sorting out used face masks and ironing them before folding them in boxes to look like new, unused ones.PHOTO: THE NATION THAILAND

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AFP) - A recycling factory that sold used face masks as new ones was raided by police in central Thailand's Saraburi province on Monday (March 2).

Mr Somsak Kaewsena, Wihandaeng district chief officer, said that he and police officers from Wihandaeng Police Station raided a recycling factory in Nongsuong subdistrict following a tip-off that the facility illegally recycled used face masks.

Police found six workers sorting out used face masks and ironing them before folding them in boxes to look like new, unused ones. One of the workers reportedly told the police that they received used face masks from a dealer and therefore did not know the real origin.

"Workers said they got paid at 1 baht (S$0.04) per piece, while they recycled around 300-400 masks per day per person," said Mr Somsak.

Officials seized all face masks at the factory and sent some samples to the Ministry of Commerce to investigate the origin.

"I have also contacted Wihandaeng Public Health Office to press charges at the police station as a plaintiff against the factory, as its operation could jeopardise the health of people who buy the used face masks as well as those in the community near the factory," added Mr Somsak.

The Thais have been lamenting over a shortage of masks amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, after the health ministry announced on Sunday a 35-year-old Thai man had died due to complications caused by the Covid-19 virus.

Thailand currently has 43 confirmed cases of the disease. The bulk of those infected are Chinese tourists or Thais who have come into contact with travellers.

The virus originating from China, which has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide, has had a heavy impact on sports events, forcing a long list of postponements and cancellations.