The reselling of face masks for profit will become a crime punishable by a one-year prison term or a ¥1 million ($9,800) fine — or both — as demand surged amid the growing coronavirus epidemic, the government said Tuesday.

The new rule, aimed at preventing would-be profiteers from taking advantage of a nationwide shortage of the masks, will take effect March 15.

Reselling face masks at the same price they were purchased for, or at lower prices, will still be allowed, a trade ministry official said, stressing that the rule is not meant to keep people from distributing them to friends and family.