Pharmacists will not sell disposable surgical masks as of Monday unless the government clarifies that they have no say over pricing, the industry’s Chamber said. 

In a statement, the Chamber of Pharmacists hit out at Economy Minister Silvio Schembri after he announced on Sunday that the price of disposable face masks has been capped at 95c and that of face shields at €5. 

Sources in the pharmacy sector told Times of Malta that selling masks at 95c would force them into making a loss, as they had purchased current stocks at higher prices.

Government sources meanwhile said that during talks last week, a solution had been floated for the taxpayer to foot the difference. 

In its statement, the chamber said that the prices for these products were set by wholesalers, and it was not pharmacists who decided what to charge the public.  

“As always, the government has put everyone in the same basket, and this is not acceptable,” the chamber said. 

Shoppers and shop assistants will be required to wear face masks as of Monday, once a partial relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions comes into effect.

People will have to wear masks while in shops or on public transport, as part of what Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has described as “the new normal”. 

Writing on Facebook on Sunday, Schembri said the government will not tolerate abuse through inflated prices for disposable surgical masks or face shields.

The maximum price for masks and shields, he said, was being set by legal notice and those found in breach could be fined between €116 and €582 for a single offence. Multiple offences carry a fine of €2,329.

Meanwhile, in announcing the industrial action, the pharmacists' chamber said the “tone” of Schembri’s Facebook post had put pharmacists in a bad light and could eat away at public confidence in them.  

This, the chamber said, was unacceptable at a time when pharmacists were working on the front lines of the fight against the COIVD-19 outbreak.   

 

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