EU suspends delivery of 10 million masks over quality issues

European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides removes a mouth mask after addressing a media conference regarding tourism at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. The European Union unveiled Wednesday its plan to help citizens across the 27 nations salvage their summer vacations after months of coronavirus lockdown, and to resurrect Europe's badly battered tourism industry. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP) (Olivier Hoslet)

BRUSSELS – The European Commission said Thursday it has suspended the delivery of 10 million Chinese masks to member states and Britain after two countries complained about the poor quality of the batches they received.

As part of its efforts to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, this month the EU's executive arm started dispatching the masks to health care workers.

After a first batch of 1.5 million masks was shipped to 17 of the 27 member states and Britain, Poland 's health minister Lukasz Szumowski said the 600,000 items Polish authorities received did not have European certificates and failed to comply with the medical standards required for their distribution.

“We have decided to suspend future deliveries of these masks," Commission health spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker said. “We will then see what action needs to be taken if there is indeed a quality problem with these masks."

According to De Keersmaecker, another member state, the Netherlands, has identified similar problems so far.

The whole stock of masks was purchased from a Chinese provider via a EU fund. It was set to be distributed in weekly installments over six weeks. De Keersmaecker insisted that the Commission scrupulously followed all control measures when it bought the masks, and verified they were usable.

“If necessary we will of course take any necessary legal action," De Keersmaecker said.

He added that the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, has alerted all the countries which have already received masks about the potential problems and asked them to provide feedback on their quality.

“It is of utmost importance that personal protective equipment sent out by the Commission is of very high quality," De Keersmaecker said. “That's fundamental because that equipment is used by citizens and by professionals in the health sector."


Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed.


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