Belgium receives 1.6 million mouth masks ‘of good quality’
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Belgium receives 1.6 million mouth masks ‘of good quality’

In addition to the 1.6 million mouth masks, 180,000 vials of disinfectant hand gel produced by local producers have also been delivered. Credit: Belga

A delivery of 1.6 million mouth masks, which arrived at the airport of Liège last week, has passed the quality tests and will now be distributed to residential care centres in light of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

It concerns surgical masks, ordered by the Flemish government, which are mainly intended for residential care centres, but also for family care, home nursing and care for people with a disability.

“The tests have shown that they are of good quality,” said Steffen Van Roosbroeck, spokesperson for Flemish Minister for Public Health Wouter Beke, to Het Laatste Nieuws.

Belgium has had problems with securing usable mouth masks, as it became apparent that it had destroyed millions ahead of the outbreak after they had reached their expiration date but failed to replace them, and 100,000 masks destined for Flemish rehabilitation hospitals were not deemed of sufficient quality.

Previously, another delivery of mouth masks never reached Belgium because of possible fraud by the Turkish manufacturer. However, Belgium received half a million masks from Chinese company Alibaba, after the King personally intervened.

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In addition to the 1.6 million mouth masks, 180,000 vials of disinfectant hand gel produced by local producers have also been delivered, according to the minister’s office. “We are working on the search for new protective material every day,” said Van Roosbroeck.

ACV, the Christian trade union, is satisfied with the quality of the masks, but said in a press release that “more is needed to keep the personnel at work,” adding that the protection of the care providers will be crucial in the coming weeks.

“It will be some time before the situation in the residential care centres returns to normal,” said the ACV. “Many workers are afraid of infecting residents, or their own families,” they added.

These 1.6 million masks are not part of the delivery of 7 million mouth masks that also arrived in Liège on Friday, about whose quality there were explicit doubts. The office of Minister Philippe De Backer, who is in charge of the management and logistics of mouth masks, told the Belga press agency that tests on that delivery were still in progress.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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