B&M has started selling a range of FFP2-grade face masks which according to official guidelines can be used safely in medical settings.
The discount retailer has pushed ahead of its rivals like Aldi and Co-op, which began selling “non-medical” face masks earlier this month, and now offers face masks with far higher levels of protection.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) stipulates that any medical staff conducting “aerosol generating procedures on patients” must wear a face mask rated at FPP3, which have a filter efficiency of 99 per cent.
However it adds that FFP2 face masks, which have a filter efficiency of 95 per cent, could safely “be used as an alternative” where FFP3 masks are not available.
B&M is offering the disposable ‘Pro Safe FFP2 Face Mask’ for £3, stating that it “helps prevent the spread of viruses” and “helps to filter 95 per cent of airborne particles”.
Its rivals have purposefully avoided selling medical-grade face masks over concerns that they could be preventing NHS staff from accessing stock.
While B&M also sells lower quality disposable and washable masks it has become the first major physical UK retailer to offer FFP2 masks to customers, who have until now largely had to search for them online.
It comes after Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy and other major retailers have been accused of profiteering by placing “excessive markups” on face masks.
Mask Bros, a student organisation which sells masks at “fair” prices often half the price of major retailers, has accused them of price gouging.
According to Mask Bros, which has now sold over 500,000 masks, retailers that purchase major quantities of masks and have their own logistics networks pay around between 20p and 30p for each medical 3-ply standard mask.
Boots sells these for 70p per mask, while Lloyds Pharmacy sells them for £1 per mask, which equates to gross profit margins of around 70 per cent.