Coronavirus: former health minister slams mask destruction

Coronavirus: former health minister slams mask destruction
© Belga

Former Health Minister and current president of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation parliament Rudy Demotte laments Maggie de Block's decision not to replenish the stock of mouth masks destroyed in 2017.

"Independently of any partisan consideration, I find the attitude of our Federal Minister of Health Maggie De Block irresponsible for not having renewed the strategic stocks of masks that had reached their expiry dates. No valid justification," Demotte tweeted.

On Monday, it was revealed that FFP2 masks, which are currently understocked, had been destroyed because they were expired. The Ministry of Defence, which was stocking these masks in hangars in Namur, confirmed the destruction on Tuesday.

It was between 2003 and 2007 that the government first decided to stock mouth masks, at the time of SARS and H5N1 (bird flu) epidemics. The stocks were renewed in 2009 when the H1N1 flu hit.

According to a report by Le Vif, De Block cited concerns about the use of taxpayer money as a reason for not replenishing the stock.

With the news of the impending coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, many citizens panic-bought masks. Now, as they are in low supply, virologists and health care workers have called on the public to donate their masks to nearby hospitals. Chinese retail giant Alibaba also recently donated 500,000 mouth masks to Belgium last week.

A Ministerial Order published on 23 March will have as a result that masks will now only be available via prescription. The Order also covers hydro-alcoholic gels (which are often used in hand sanitiser) and other "personal protective equipment" as well as biocides (poisonous substances).

Jason Spinks

The Brussels Times

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