23:55 GMT31 March 2020
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    Beginning next week, those in Japan looking to profit off of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic by reselling face masks will be subject to a punishment of up to a year in prison and a $9,800 fine.

    The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday that it had approved a new law that will punish price gougers who resell face masks at price mark-ups with up to one year in prison and/or a $9,800 fine.

    “We want to ensure that the average consumer can get their hands on masks,” said an unnamed official with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, according to the Japan Times.

    The nationwide rule will go into effect on March 15. As it currently stands, the law will only apply to face masks, but the outlet noted that goods such as disinfectants, diapers or other products in high demand may be added to the list of products that cannot be resold at higher prices than those at which they were bought.

    This comes alongside an apology issued by Hiroyuki Morota, a 53-year-old lawmaker with the Shizuoka prefectural assembly, who confessed to auctioning packs containing 2,000 face masks online for prices ranging between $284 and $1,610.

    "I had a moral responsibility, and I regret that I lacked consideration as an assembly member," he said during a Monday news conference, as reported by Kyodo News. The outlet noted that he made a total of $87,000 from his mask sales.

    The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has also called upon online marketplaces to suspend the auctioning of face masks beginning on March 14.

    Japan currently has at least 581 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus and 10 related deaths attributed to the contagious disease, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

    Officials from Japan’s health ministry said Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak is “under control,” and the government is able to run up to 6,000 tests a day, reported Nikkei Asian Review.

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    mask, resale, public health, coronavirus, COVID-19, Japan
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