Minister adamant price gouging justified price caps on surgical masks

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Economy Minister Silvio Schembri stood by his claim that price gouging on surgical masks had forced the government’s hand and led to price caps, though he welcomed the agreement eventually reached with pharmacists.

Schembri was asked to comment on the price caps by fellow Labour MP Anthony Agius Decelis during question time in today’s parliamentary sitting.

“This was not our preferred option, or a decision that we enjoyed taking,” the minister said. “But we have been insisting that no abusive pricing should take place, especially for essential products.”

The minister said that as the government allowed non-essential shops to reopen – but required people to wear masks to enter them – the price of masks suddenly shot up, “from a few cents to up to €5-6.”

Schembri stressed that a balance needed to be reached, and noted that the €0.95 price cap for masks was the same as that set by France and Spain. On the other hand, he pointed out, Italy set a €0.50 cap, only to see supplies dry up and a black market flourish.

He said that he has already seen masks sold for less than the price cap, stating that this confirmed that something was wrong.

If you want to be the first to receive the latest news on the coronavirus in Malta, download the Newsbook APP here.