A large part of the face masks that the Dutch government has imported from China is faulty. Because the masks were already distributed to hospitals, the Ministry of Health has launched a recall.
This concerns almost half of a batch of 1.3 million so-called FFP2 masks, 600,000 pieces. Healthcare providers use it to treat critically ill patients with Covid infection. Faulty masks put doctors and nurses at risk.
The masks have been rejected by the research institute TNO because they do not meet the safety requirements. They do not fit well on the face or have membranes that do not function properly, the very fine filters that have to stop virus particles.
The masks are already distributed among the hospitals. "The face masks that are not satisfactory are being retrieved," the Ministry of Health told the Dutch television. "We have no overview of whether the defective face masks have also been used in hospitals."
Tested on hospitals' own initiative
A number of hospitals had the masks tested by TNO on their own initiative. The batch of masks had already been distributed among the hospitals in the Netherlands without having been tested to see whether they meet the quality requirements.
"When they were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected those masks," said a person from a hospital who received a batch of defective masks. "If those masks do not close properly, the virus particles can simply pass. We do not use them. That is unsafe for our people."
TNO is not allowed to provide information about the results and results of the tests. "That is contractually stipulated," said a spokesperson.
The rejected face masks are said to be of low quality. Not of FFP2 quality nor of the lesser level of safety FFP1. "Some sort of FFP0.8 at best," said this source.
It is not clear whether the rejected masks are already in use in Dutch hospitals, but that is not imaginary given the large shortages.
On Sunday 29 March, Dutch Minister Martin van Rijn for Medical Care met with the Chinese ambassador in The Hague to discuss a shipment of rejected face masks from China.
"Talked to Chinese ambassador Xu Hong about the rejected masks, the Minister tweeted on Sunday. "But also thanked China for their support to fight the coronavirus in the Netherlands. We are working together to ensure that all protective equipment meets quality requirements."
The Chinese ambassador tweeted that he had a "good conversation" with Van Rijn. He is waiting for more detailed information about the rejected masks, he said, adding that he hopes "this isolated incident" will not impact the two countries' joint fight against the coronavirus.
The demand for face masks to protect healthcare workers against the coronavirus is sky-high worldwide. China is currently the only country that can supply these masks on a large scale.
On Monday the union for nurses and other healthcare workers NU'91 launched an online reporting point where healthcare workers can report shortages of protective equipment. The union hopes that this will help map out exactly what is needed where.