Danish party calls for free face masks for low-income groups

Danish party calls for free face masks for low-income groups
Health authorities in Denmark advise the use of face masks on busy public transport. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
The left-wing Red Green Alliance wants face masks to be offered for free to people on lower incomes.

The party, part of the parliamentary alliance propping up the Social Democrat minority government, suggested the measure after health authorities in Denmark last week changed official advice to recommend the use of the protective item on busy public transport.

READ ALSO: Denmark changes face mask guidelines: now advised on busy public transport

Given the high cost of buying face masks, people with lower incomes should be given them for free, the Red Green Alliance said.

“We think that face masks should be made available for low income groups. It must be possible more them to afford to take public transport too,” the party’s transport spokesperson Peder Hvelplund said to DR.

Senior citizens, people on disability pensions, students and people who receive universal credit are amongst those the party would like to benefit from the measure.

 

“We envisage they would be given a one-off credit which would enable them to collect face masks for free at pharmacies,” Hvelplund said.

The party is not alone in considering the issue of ensuring face masks are accessible or affordable for everyone.

The price of the masks varies between retailers. Pharmacy chain Matas currently lists a pack of four disposable Type II face masks at 49,95 kroner (around €6.70 or £6.00). Given that this type of mask should only be used once before being discarded, the cost for someone who uses public transport to go to work could be significant.

“If you use public transport a lot, the cost of masks could become a huge economic burden,” said health spokesperson Kirsten Normann Andersen of the Socialist People’s Party.

“We have already said to the minister [Minister for Health and the Elderly Magnus Heunicke, ed.] that we need to find a solution for residents who don’t have money to buy face masks,” Andersen said, adding that this could take the form of an “allowance or subsidy”.

Heunicke’s party colleague Rasmus Horn Langhoff, who is spokesperson for health with the ruling Social Democrats, played down the issue.

“We cannot see that this will hit people hard in terms of costs,” Langhoff told DR.

But the government would monitor developments including rising prices, he added.

“This must not become a situation like the one we saw with hand sanitizer, where it was sold out at supermarkets and sold for an excessive price,” he said


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