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S. Korea's exports of masks up 2,200% in Feb. amid coronavirus spread


South Korea's exports of protective masks surged nearly 23 times in February from a year earlier amid the global outbreak of the new coronavirus, data showed Thursday, although the volume is likely to plummet this month in line with the export ban.

Outbound shipments of textile articles, which include masks, came to $157 million in February, up from $6.85 million a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Korea International Trade Association. It also more than doubled from $70 million in January.

While the segment does not necessarily only include protective masks, industry watchers say the increase was apparently driven solely by the product, considering the figures were almost unchanged over previous years.

China was the biggest destination, accounting for 86 percent of such exports in February, the data showed.

The amount, however, is expected to sharply decrease in March as South Korea imposed a full export ban on masks starting Feb. 28 amid the soaring demand here.

South Korea has been running short of protective masks amid the COVID-19 epidemic, with people forming long lines at local pharmacies.

Starting last week, South Korea adopted a de facto distribution system for protective masks, in which people can purchase two face masks per week from pharmacies on designated days of the week depending on their year of birth.

South Korea detected 152 new cases Wednesday, bringing up the nation's total infections to 8,565. (Yonhap)