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Jakarta Post

Finland discovers masks bought from China not hospital-safe

Finland discovers masks bought from China not hospital-safe Various protective face masks, worn by many people during the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, are on display for sale outside a shop in Berlin's Kreuzberg district on April 2, 2020. (AFP/David GANNON)
News Desk (Agence France-Presse)
Helsinki, Finland   ●   Thu, April 9, 2020 2020-04-09 05:37 403 fc6853813033f564188675f8bd0b5704 2 World finland,face-mask,COVID-19,coronavirus-mask-rush,coronavirus,COVID-19-medical-supplies,pandemic,China Free

Two million protective masks purchased by Finland from China have turned out to be unsuitable for use in hospitals, the Finnish government admitted on Wednesday.

On Tuesday Finland's Health minister Aino-Kaisa Pekonen had tweeted a picture of the first shipment of two million surgical masks and 230,000 respirator masks being unloaded at Helsinki airport on a Finnair flight from Guangzhou in China, saying they would be "checked and tested" before use. 

But by Wednesday, officials discovered that the face masks did not meet the required standards of protection against the coronavirus for use in medical environments.

"Of course this was a bit of a disappointment for us,"  health ministry permanent secretary Kirsi Varhila told a news conference.

However she said that it would be possible to use the masks in residential care facilities and for carers making home visits. 

Other European countries had met similar problems after  ordering equipment from China, due to the "extremely chaotic" Chinese facemask market, Tomi Lounema, head of Finland's preparedness unit, told the news conference. 

"Prices are going up all the time, purchases have to be made quickly and paid for in advance," Lounema said. 

"The commercial risk is very high."

In recent weeks, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey and Australia have returned Chinese-bought masks, leading the Chinese government to suggest that nations have not "double checked" the products before purchasing. 

Finland's government did not reveal the amount paid for the shipments, but on Wednesday announced a further 600 million euros to be put aside for purchasing protective equipment, as part of a 4.1 billion euro bailout to counter the impacts of the coronavirus. 

On Tuesday the government announced it has made arrangements with three domestic companies to begin manufacturing 200,000 masks a day, with production due to begin at the end of this month. 

Finland currently needs about half a million surgical masks, and 50,000 respirator masks per day, officials said on Wednesday, with some regions warning of shortages. 

Prime Minister Sanna Marin hit out at some local authorities on Twitter earlier in the day, accusing them of not having stockpiled three to six months' worth of protective equipment as mandated by Finland's pandemic preparedness plan.