Romania needs to have a stock of 100 million surgical masks starting mid-May when it will become compulsory to wear a mask in public, the economy minister said Friday.
The minister, Virgil Popescu, said masks should be reasonably priced following months of shortages and price gouging, but stopped short of saying the government would cap prices.
He said 30% of masks would be produced domestically, and the rest imported.
Last week, President Klaus Iohannis announced that face masks would become compulsory in public in enclosed spaces, such as in supermarkets, shops and public transport after the state of emergency ends on May 15.
There was a run on face masks in February after the coronavirus spread to Romania. That led to prices skyrocketing and shortages and cases of disposable masks selling for 50 RON apiece (more than 10 euros) online.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, masks retailed for about 0.5 lei (one euro=4.83 lei).
Although face masks are not yet compulsory in most of Romania, many people wear them when they leave home.
A disposable mask costs about 5 lei in pharmacies. Some tailors and dressmakers have begun to manufacture cotton masks for about 10 lei.
On Friday, the Carrefour French supermarket chain was selling 50 masks for 129 lei (2.58 per mask), a reduction of 26% from the previous day when the same pack cost 175 lei.
Popescu said masks should sell for about 2 lei apiece. Iohannis said this week that authorities would provide masks for people who weren’t able to afford them.
„You will find masks for about 2 lei. I repeat about 2 lei. I don’t want to see speculation on the market,” Popescu told Digi24.
“We don’t want to intervene with pricing but to offer masks at a competitive price so they cost the same everywhere.”
“The state will get involved if retailers and pharmacies can’t import or get supplies from domestic sources,” he said.
“We want there to be enough masks for everyone. We don’t want there to be shortages. When there is a scarcity, there is price gouging.”