Sales of surgical masks in Estonia have rapidly declined since the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, with at least one chain retailer no longer stocking them. Pharmacies are, however, stocking up in preparation for a second wave of COVID-19.
Timo Danilov, head of the Estonian Association of Pharmacists (EPAL) says that sales of masks are only a fraction of peak levels, with the decline already starting in late April to early May.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recommended that masks should still be worn in public places as a precaution, though mask-wearers are in the distinct minority on the streets of Estonia's towns, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.
Pharmacies are, however, preparing for a potential second wave and retaining stocks – to the extent that no shortages would be likely should this materialize.
Latvian regulations require all those traveling on public transport to cover their mouth and nose, though this need not be with a surgical mask – a scarf or similar will suffice.
One business in Estonia which says it over-bought masks as the pandemic developed is the Grossi chain of supermarkets, which recently donated 56,000 masks to local government and care homes in Lääne-Viru County.
Raigo Mölder, board member of OG Elektra, which manages the stores, says the store's masks venture – which saw it undercutting pharmacies on price – had not been successful.
"It is impossible for the private sector to invest large amounts of money [into masks], because there are no such funds at the moment," Mölder admitted.
Timo Danilov noted the wide variety of mask types available, adding that pharmacies follow WHO guidelines and are constantly replenishing their stocks accordingly.
Tanro Kruusmann, CEO of Tamro Estonia, one of the major wholesalers, confirmed that his firm had plenty of masks in stock.
He also said he could not foresee prices falling anytime soon, as demand is still there.
"As long as this virus actually continues to live actively in the world, including in larger countries, demand will certainly remain high, and it will actually lead to a relatively high price level," he said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte