European Countries Are Throwing Out ‘Rubbish’ Chinese-Made Masks and Coronavirus Tests

The Dutch government is discarding over a million masks that don't fit properly or have defective filters.
March 30, 2020, 2:14pm
europe coronavirus masks recall china
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

The Netherlands has become the latest European country to dump what it says is substandard Chinese-made equipment in the fight against coronavirus, recalling more than half a million face masks from hospitals after they failed quality tests.

The Dutch government announced a recall of 600,000 FFP2 masks from hospitals on Saturday after tests showed the masks didn’t fit properly or had defective filter membranes to stop the transmission of the virus.

“Healthcare providers have been informed and told not to use the masks,” the health ministry said in a statement, adding that another 700,000 masks delivered in the shipment wouldn’t be distributed either. Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported that some hospitals had already rejected the masks when they were delivered, due to their concerns about the product.

The ministry blamed the situation on critical shortages of protective equipment worldwide, which have forced governments to seek new suppliers to meet the urgent demand for protective gear.

READ: British doctors are begging the government to test them for coronavirus

“Due to shortages, we can find ourselves in a situation where only protective equipment is available that does not meet the highest standards,” the ministry said. “This is an issue in all countries.”

A spokesperson for one affected hospital, the Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven, put it more bluntly. “There is a lot of rubbish on the market and some people are trying to profit from the crisis by asking high prices,” the spokesperson told NOS.

China’s embassy in the Netherlands said Monday it was closely following the situation, and would help the Dutch investigation into the quality of the masks if required.

The Dutch recall is only one example of Chinese-made medical equipment being withdrawn from circulation in Europe due to quality concerns in recent days.

READ: Italian doctors are coming out of retirement to treat coronavirus patients, and dying

In Belgium, Leuven University Hospital refused a shipment of 3,000 Chinese-made masks over the weekend because of concerns over their quality, Herman Devrieze, the hospital’s head of prevention, told local media.

In Spain, which has the world’s second highest official coronavirus death toll after Italy, the government said Thursday it had withdrawn 8,000 rapid testing kits delivered to authorities in Madrid, and sent back another 50,000 to the manufacturer, due to concerns about their accuracy. Officials found the tests they reviewed were only about 30% accurate.

READ: Nurses in Spain are suffering and worried that they’re infecting their patients

The Chinese embassy in Madrid said that the manufacturer of the tests, Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology, had not been officially licenced by Chinese authorities to sell medical products.

Turkey’s Health Minister also said Friday that rapid testing kits samples it had received from a Chinese company did not meet the country's accuracy standards.

Cover: Health workers applaud in support of the medical staff that are working on the COVID-19 virus outbreak at La Paz hospital in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)