Store opens to sell face masks in Amsterdam while healthcare workers struggle with shortage

An ice cream store has started selling face masks in Amsterdam, and people are furious. The Netherlands has been dealing with a shortage of face masks for healthcare workers for weeks.

The owner of the shop, Hank, is friends with a man who imports certified face masks from China. According to Hank, his friend did try to sell the face masks to the RIVM, but they refused to buy them. Hank’s theory is that the face masks were too expensive for the RIVM, RTL Nieuws reports.

RIVM cannot always buy what people offer

This can be a possibility, according to the RIVM. People who want to offer protection to the RIVM can do so through the National Consortium for Aid, but it is not always possible to take people up on their offer. “This could be because, for example, the stocks are offered at extortionate prices, or because inquiries show that the products are not available at all,” the RIVM has stated.

No one knows which authority should deal with this store

Given that there are healthcare professionals who still do not have sufficient protective equipment, it makes sense that people are angry about this enterprise. It is nigh on impossible to find out which Dutch authority is in charge of dealing with it, according to NOS, however.

The police, who did visit the store yesterday, say it is the municipality’s responsibility- but they say National Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) is the organisation that should be handling it.

The NVWA says that actually, Health and Youth Care Inspectorate (IGJ) should be doing it, which in turn says the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) is in charge. B

ut the SZW has told NOS that it can only inspect products coming into the country and in the workplace. “But anyone can sell what they want to sell in their store. There is no prohibition on selling mouth masks.”

“We don’t have enough yet” Minister de Jonge says

Last Thursday, Minister de Jonge was asked in cabinet about the face mask shortage, and said that the healthcare system was still facing a shortage. “No: we don’t have enough yet. We have ordered a lot. But that only works when it actually arrives. So we don’t have enough for the time being.” There is a national purchasing centre working on acquiring more masks.

Less profit on masks than on ice cream

According to Hank, there isn’t really a shortage of masks; there is a shortage of masks at affordable prices. In order to acquire them, you really have to pay top dollar: and that also shows in the prices he charges customers. €25 for three masks is a lot, but according to Hank he makes less profit on them than he does on ice cream.

Store owner just wants to “pay the rent and not fall over”

Hank says this business idea was about survival: he still has to pay rent and other bills on his store, which he wasn’t able to open as an ice cream store because of social distancing. “This man [referring to himself] really only wants to be able to pay the rent and not fall over. Just go back to work and help others, that is the only [way of getting through the crisis].”

What are your thoughts on this? Should stores be allowed to sell face masks? Let us know in the comments below. 

Feature Image: Gajendra Bhati/Pexels

Ailish Lalor
Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.


  1. Yes, he should! It’s for safety and plus he’s trying his best to pay his bills without losing his business in the long run. If people want to pay top dollar for it, why not?. If some people want to buy for the healthcare frontliners, why not? If all they want to do is support their favorite ice cream parlor, why not? He’s not selling anything illicit so why stop him from making ends meet.


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