As a shortage of face masks continues in Japan amid the spread of the new coronavirus originating in China, their prices are shooting up on online flea markets.

Some people are apparently cornering masks at drugstores and other shops and selling them at excessively high prices via online markets that have no regulations regarding resales.

As the coronavirus outbreak drags on, Amazon.com has run out its inventory of regularly priced masks.

In the meantime, large volumes of masks are on sale elsewhere at inflated prices. For example, a pack of seven masks that normally sells for around ¥400 is priced at about ¥4,000 on one such website.

Visiting a drugstore in the city of Osaka, a female corporate worker in her 20s said, “I’m now visiting a fifth store for a pack containing a large number of individually wrapped masks, but I can’t find them anywhere.”

A student from Taiwan in her 20s said she has been asked by her parents to buy masks in Japan and bring them back with her.

“I came to this store because (mask) prices are soaring on internet sites, but I can’t find any,” she said.

Government officials are considering drawing up regulations on resales and other practices on online flea markets.

“The situation needs to be watched carefully,” an official of the Consumer Affairs Agency said.

Kensaku Fukui, a lawyer versed in issues related to product resales, said that sometimes laws are established to ban resales of specific products, such as Olympic tickets, at inflated prices. “But it’s difficult to regulate resales of masks,” he said.

Still, Fukui said that it is very malicious to corner goods and resell during a disease outbreak.

“Measures should be taken, such as stores limiting the number of items each customer can buy and rejecting purchases for the purpose of resale,” he said.

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