Two held for hawking flu masks in Mexico capital

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican police arrested two people on Saturday for hawking surgical masks for 25 times their regular price to people scurrying to cover their faces from a deadly outbreak of a new flu, a media report said.

A 35-year-old woman and her 15-year-old brother were trying to sell a pile of about 1,000 face masks at a subway station in front of a major public hospital in Mexico’s crowded capital for 50 pesos each -- nearly $4, the daily Reforma reported.

Pharmacies in Mexico City sell the masks in packs that work out to about one mask for two pesos. But many had sold out as residents cleared the shelves after the new strain of swine flu killed up to 68 people across Mexico.

“They’d managed to sell a few, but we received a complaint and we took them before a judge,” Reforma’s online edition quoted a police spokesman as saying.

Mexico City’s backstreets are a den of street stalls run by vendors who produce fake handbags as soon as they hit catwalks and lay out pirated DVDs of movies barely released to cinemas.

The flu outbreak, which health experts say is capable of becoming a pandemic, has rattled residents of Mexico City, with most people huddling at home and many only venturing on the street with a mask covering their face.

$1 = 13.28 pesos