Even though pharmacies and grocery stores have been selling disposable protective masks for some time, people are not buying them because of their high sale price. Masks are not expected to become cheaper anytime soon, either, since China is manufacturing them for the whole world, particularly the United States, and that keeps the prices high.
Until now, government members have talked about wearing masks becoming the social norm. On Thursday, April 24, Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) announced that wearing masks in public indoor spaces should be made mandatory. Aab added that there are no problems with the security of the supply of the masks.
FFP1 type masks have been sold in Grossi supermarkets for about a week now. Management board member at OG Elektra OÜ., which operates the chain, Raigo Mölder, said that the sales haven´t been going too well, however, but in his opinion, this isn´t because of people´s preferences.
"Sales have been very poor. We are seeing that people want to buy the masks, but they are too expensive. Even though today, we are selling the cheapest masks, this is still too expensive for people."
In the Grossi stores, one mask costs €0.58 and in some pharmacies it is €0.10. These masks are disposable, however, meaning that after going to the shop you need to throw them away carefully. Next time you go to the store, you need to wear another mask.
Jaak Aab said that since supply will increase in the coming weeks, then hopefully the prices will drop. Raigo Mölder doesn´t agree.
"The suppliers are offering that we take down €0.03 from the masks. This is still expensive for people, and we can see that it´s a big burden for them.
Head of the Board of Magnum, Ahti Kallikorm, is not predicting that masks will get cheaper either. Magnum has brought 7 million masks to Estonia so far, and they have sold over half of them.
"Since the masks have mainly come from China, and China is manufacturing the masks for the whole world and especially the U.S., which is in a serious coronavirus crisis at the moment, then the prices are seeing an increasing trend in China," Kallikorm said.
However, Kallikorm has said that the confusion that occurred at the beginning of the pandemic is gone now. The supply chains are set, and who has the highest demand, gets the masks from China.
"Supply has definitely increased. We have a big enough stock at the moment, and we have these certain agreed suppliers and the quality is very important," pharma wholesaler Tamro Eesti Chief Executive Tanel Kuusmann said.
Ahti Kallikorm believes that the masks should be made mandatory, despite their high price.
"Making the masks mandatory is the only option to relax the mobility restrictions. To let people roam free, they have to wear masks," Kallikorm said.
Minister Aab is trying to calm the situatiuon insaying that people don´t need to buy expensive masks.
"All masks are suitable. Surgical, FFP1, regular mask, face mask, or even homemade masks," he said.
Editor: Roberta Vaino