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[Newsmaker] Digital mask-supply services kick off in S. Korea

March 11, 2020 - 09:44 By Yonhap
(Screenshot captured from Cough Cough Mask)

Various South Korean providers launched digital services providing real-time information about the availability of face masks at designated stores on Wednesday as the country strives to solve a mask supply crunch amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Ten mobile application and online service developers have started to offer information on mask stockpiles at state-designated retailers, according to the National Information Society Agency.

An open application programming interface has been publicly available since Tuesday evening, allowing programmers to create various online and mobile services using the country's data on face masks.

Such mobile apps and web services show the locations of authorized stores and how many masks they have in stock, helping people avoid visiting multiple stores to make their purchases.

They will display mask availability using four different colors. A store colored green means 100 or more masks are available, while yellow means there are fewer than 100 masks. Red means there are fewer than 30 masks in the store, while grey means masks are sold out. 

South Korea's leading web portal operators, Naver and Kakao, will also provide mask stockpile information using their interactive maps.

South Korea began a rationing system for face masks on Monday amid growing public anger. Citizens have been waiting in long lines for hours to buy masks provided via public channels.

Under the new measure, citizens are able to buy only two protective masks per week from state-designated retailers, including pharmacies and post offices, on designated days of the week, depending on the final number of their year of birth. (Yonhap)