RIYADH: Saudi authorities have seized more than five million medical masks that were illegally stockpiled amid the coronavirus outbreak, state media reported Sunday, as the death toll in the kingdom doubled.
The commerce ministry seized 1.17 million masks from a private store in Hail, northwest of the capital, after authorities Wednesday confiscated more than four million masks stored in a facility in the western city of Jeddah in violation of commercial regulations, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The ministry said people behind such activities would be prosecuted, and that the confiscated masks would be redistributed to the open market.
Pharmacies in the oil-rich kingdom have reported shortages of masks amid panic buying, as authorities warned against hoarding and price hikes.
Saudi Arabia is scrambling to limit the spread of the deadly disease at home.
The kingdom’s health ministry on Sunday said the death toll from the Covid-19 disease had doubled to eight as cumulative infections rose from 1,203 to 1,299 – the highest in the Gulf region.
Riyadh has imposed a nationwide partial curfew, barred entry and exit from the capital as well as Islam’s two holiest cities Mecca and Medina and prohibited movement between all provinces.
King Salman warned last week of a “more difficult” fight ahead against the virus, as the kingdom faces the economic double blow of virus-led shutdowns and crashing oil prices. – AFP