On Surgical Masks and Face Shields

Published on May 3rd, 2020

The Minister of the Economy has just capped the price of surgical masks and face shields. Make sure you know what to buy and at what price.

Medieval knight face armour
Fancy one of these face shields? Source: ancient.eu

Here's a rough translation/summary of his Facebook post:

Exaggerated prices on Disposable Surgical Masks or Face Shield will not be tolerated. Therefore as Minister of the Economy through a legal notice, from tomorrow May 4th, the maximum price for Surgical Masks will be €0.95, while the maximum price for Face Shields will be that of €5.

He then proceeds to describe what to do in case of illegalities, and finally outlines the fines applicable in case of breach of this legal notice applicable from 4th May onwards. Full Facebook post in Maltese:

Mhux se nitolleraw abbuż ta’ prezzijiet esaġerati fuq iċ-ċittadini għal Disposable Surgical Masks jew Face Shields. ...

Posted by Silvio Schembri on Sunday, May 3, 2020

Reaction by the Chamber of Pharmacies

The Chamber basically found the lack of consultation in the process unworkable:

The Kamra states that it was not consulted on the legal notice regarding the capped prices to the public of surgical masks and visors. We are looking into the matter with urgency, and in the interim the best professional approach is not to retail surgical masks and visors until further developments and full clarification of the matter.

This is the statement made on May 3rd 11:26pm:

Statement by Chamber of Pharmacies
Statement by Chamber of Pharmacies. Image credit: Facebook

The stance was substantiated by the below post published by the Chamber later on during the same night.

In the post the Chamber states that prices are set by wholesalers not by pharmacies or pharmacists. The Chamber points out that the tone in the Minister's post above does not shed a positive light on pharmacies. Finally it directs pharmacies not to sell surgical masks and face visors until the situation is clarified.

Stqarrijja Midja. 03/05/2020 Il-Kamra ta’ L-Ispizjara ta’ Malta tinforma lill-Ministru Silvio Schembri li l-ispizeriji...

Posted by Kamra tal-Ispiżjara ta' Malta on Sunday, May 3, 2020

We'll keep you updated with any proceedings on this important matter. Important because as from tomorrow (well, actually, today) Monday May 4th anyone entering a shop or using public transport needs to wear a surgical mask.

Update, May 4th 5:35pm

An agreement has been reached between both parties. The government is expected to compensate pharmacy operators/owners for any losses which may have been incurred after the state set a price-cap of 95c for face masks and €5 for face-shields/visors. Hence pharmacies are now able to sell masks and face shields/visors at the prices as capped by the government:

‼Following discussions with Deputy Prime Minister Fearne and Economy Minister Schembri whereby there is a better ...

Posted by Kamra tal-Ispiżjara ta' Malta on Monday, May 4, 2020

Is a surgical mask enough?

Short answer: Yes. The other types of masks, with names you do not really need to remember unless you work in healthcare, are, in fact, intended for use in a healthcare setting.


There's a really good article on the Times of Malta in which the journalist spoke to resident specialist cardiologist at Mater Dei Hospital Melanie Zammit Burg.

I suggest you visit that link and go through the three videos. It is time well spent.

What are the videos about?

The first video explains in detail why a surgical mask is enough for the general public to wear in settings as shopping, using public transport, etc.

The second video explains the details of how to wear a mask. There are some non-obvious steps to follow if you, like myself, have never worked in healthcare related environment.

The third video clip complements the second one by going through the dos and don'ts when removing the face mask.

Seriously, watch those videos. They answer a lot of questions you might have.

One more question: 2-ply or 3-ply surgical mask?

A 2-ply mask has two layers, a 3-ply one has three. So, between the two surgical mask types go for the 3-ply as it offers more protection.

Stay safe! And where possible be a hero by simply staying at home.

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