PETALING JAYA: The Pharmaceutical Society of Malaysia has called for different price points to be set for different grades of face masks after the government reduced its ceiling price from RM1.50 to RM1.
In a joint statement with the Sarawak Pharmaceutical Society and Sabah Pharmaceutical Society, the group said although it lauded the government's efforts to ensure everyone had access to a mask to guard against Covid-19, it should have consulted more stakeholders before making a decision that could have far-reaching consequences.
"The sudden price decrease would not only force community pharmacies to sell the stocks of masks at a loss as they were purchased at a higher cost, but it could also encourage the production of substandard face masks," it said on Thursday (Aug 13).
It also said the cost of manufacturing a medical-grade mask is much higher compared to a non-medical grade mask.
"Medical-grade masks which are used by our healthcare professionals at the frontlines have much better bacterial and viral filtration compared to non-medical grade face masks," the group said.
It claimed that medical-grade masks have a filtration level of about 95% while the levels of non-medical ones would be between 65% and 80%.
"We would like to urge the government to set ceiling prices for different grades of three-ply masks instead of a blanket price for medical masks," it said.
The group also said the government could consider subsidising face masks for the B40 group instead of decreasing the ceiling price, adding community pharmacies would assist in distributing the masks to communities in need.
The group also said the government should consider the extra logistical costs of bringing the masks to Sabah and Sarawak, which may make the new ceiling price unfeasible.
The government set the new retail ceiling price for a three-ply mask at RM1, which would be enforced starting Aug 15.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi said there was sufficient supply of masks and it was time for the price to be reduced as the current ceiling price has been around for some time.
"We hope that it will help reduce the burden of the people, especially the B40 income group," he said at a press conference in Parliament on Thursday.
He said based on the ministry's engagement with industry players, face mask manufacturers were confident that there would be enough supply in the market.
The maximum retail price is RM1 per unit or RM50 per box while the wholesale price is RM0.95 per unit or RM47.50 per box.
Since Aug 1, it is compulsory to wear face masks in crowded public places and while riding on public transport.
Action can be taken on retailers found selling masks above the ceiling price.
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