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Australians Face Jail Time For Exporting Masks Or Hand Sanitiser

Strict new laws could see people who export items such as face masks and hand sanitiser spend up to five years behind bars.

Similar punishment also applies to those who are caught price-gouging on the essential goods.

The move is reportedly in response to a case where a Chinese-backed business sent 10,000 masks, 30,000 protective gowns and 68,000 disposable gloves from Sydney to Shanghai several months ago when the coronavirus crisis had not yet fully taken hold in Australia.

The business says it is now amassing supplies that it will donate to Aussie doctors and nurses, according to News Corp.

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Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Wednesday said the government has enforced a ban on exporting "essential goods" like gloves, gowns, goggles, visors or alcohol wipes, as well as more commercially-available products like masks or hand sanitiser.

The new regulations fall under an amendment to the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 Act called 'COVID-19 Human Biosecurity Emergency'.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Image: AAP.

Dutton said border force officials will seize goods and add them to the National Medical Stockpile if they appear to be in good working order, so they can be used by Australians.

This applies to any essential goods in the custody of the Australian Border Force that were attempted to be exported from January 30.

Any defective goods will be destroyed.

“These measures have become necessary because we have seen a small number of individuals engaging in the bulk purchasing of essential goods from retail outlets in Australia, with the intent of profiteering from exploitative exporting and price gouging,” Dutton said.

“These goods are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

It was reported that 69,000 face masks were seized from 440 consignments over the last two weeks. About 30 of those shipments contained sanitiser and wipes, with five containing other PPE like gloves.

Health Minister Greg Hunt. Image: AAP

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has also introduced measures to stop people from selling goods at vastly inflated prices.

Anyone who has bought essential goods on or after January 30 cannot sell them for more than 120 per cent of that price. It comes after some goods were posted in online marketplaces at exorbitant markups.

Where people are found to be price-gouging, they’ll also be required to hand over the items to the National Medical Stockpile.

The measure doesn't apply to manufacturers or legitimate business activities.