South Korean traders who hoard face masks and other products used to battle the coronavirus outbreak will face up to two years in prison, the government announced Tuesday.
The deadly new virus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and has now infected more than 20,000 people, killing 425 and spreading to more than two dozen countries.
Concern about the spread of the virus is growing in South Korea, where 16 cases have been identified so far.
Demand for face masks and hand sanitisers has surged, the ministry of economy and finance said, leading to a “sharp increase in prices” due to “hoarding”.
The two items were added to a list of designated products, it said.
From Wednesday, sellers who hoard more than one and a half times their average monthly sales volume will face a maximum sentence of two years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won ($42,000).
South Korea has so far seen at least four cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus, while a hospitalised Chinese tour guide is believed to have caught the illness while working in Japan.
On Tuesday, a Korean woman who recently visited Thailand became its 16th confirmed case.