Consumer watchdog asks Health Ministry to fix facial mask prices
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Consumer watchdog asks Health Ministry to fix facial mask prices

Request submitted following complaints that stores, online sites charging exorbitant prices for masks, whose effectiveness in pandemic remains unclear

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

People wear face masks as they stroll along the beach promenade of the city of Ashkelon, March 29, 2020. (Flash90)
People wear face masks as they stroll along the beach promenade of the city of Ashkelon, March 29, 2020. (Flash90)

The head of the Israel Consumer Council on Sunday urged the Health Ministry to add face masks to the list of products whose prices are controlled.

The move follows complaints by citizens to the council about stores and online sites trying to take advantage of the mask shortage by charging excessive prices for items whose ability to protect against the virus is unclear.

“A check of internet sites has revealed significant price differences between types of masks and between sites, sometimes reaching hundreds of percent,” a letter from Consumer Council director Ofer Marom to Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said.

The large variety of masks for different purposes — such as allergens, air pollution and dust — and the different prices have confused the public, the letter went on.

Ofer Marom, Director of the Israel Consumer Council (Courtesy)

In the absence of accessible and trustworthy information, people are likely to assume that all masks protect against COVID-19, it added.

“The Israel Consumer Council calls on the Health Ministry to issue a list of recommended, supervised prices to enable consumers to weigh whether they want to purchase a mask …and which mask might be appropriate.”

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry published a short video explaining how to make simple improvised facial coverings in order to comply with the latest government regulations, which urge everyone to wear masks when venturing outside.

After first advising Israelis not to leave home without a mask, the ministry told people that they did not need to rush out for top of the line N-95s, but could instead just cobble together a face protector at home.

Because of a global shortage in masks, officials advised that Israelis improvise masks or some other way to cover their faces and leave heavy-duty masks for health professionals on the front lines.

The video was published on various social media platforms. (Here is roughly the same method in English.)

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