US President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting price gouging and hoarding of medical supplies deemed critical amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the country.
After signing the order on Monday, Trump told a White House press briefing that the presidential decree would "prohibit the hoarding of vital medical equipment and supplies, such as hand sanitizers, face masks, and personal protective equipment", reports Xinhua news agency.
The President said that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will designate certain items as "scarce", making it a crime to stockpile items that are so designated.
Attorney General William Barr, who also attended the presser, went on to explain the order, saying its aim was to prevent people from accumulating critical equipment.
"Once specific materials are so designated, persons are prohibited from accumulating those items in excess of reasonable personal or business needs or for the purpose of selling them in excess of prevailing market prices," Barr said.
"It is a crime to engage in prohibited activity," said the Attorney General.
The order, he stressed, won't affect "consumers or businesses stockpiling supplies for their own operations".
According to Barr, Trump was authorized to issue the executive order under the Defense Production Act, a law the president has recently invoked to boost production of masks, gowns and other materials relevant to combating the pandemic.
No such goods have been designated so far, Barr said, adding that the Department of Justice has been working with the HHS to identify possible cases where hoarding is hampering response efforts during the pandemic.
According to the latest update by the Washington-based John Hopkins University, the US has so far reported 46,450 coronavirus cases, with 590 deaths.
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