As a result of the current COVID-19 global outbreak, the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gloves, protective coveralls or eyewear protection, as well as for medical devices such as surgical masks, exploration gloves and some gowns, has seen an exponential growth. In particular, the supply chain of certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as the disposable face masks FFP2 is under severe pressure.
Due to the current exceptional circumstances many Belgian doctors, nurses and healthcare workers are getting desperate and – unfortunately – this results in people trying to take advantage of the situation, and at high prices.
On Friday 27th March it was reported that a large part of the mouth masks imported by the Dutch government from China is unsound. This concerns almost half of a batch of 1,3 million so-called FFP2 masks. Healthcare workers use it to treat critically ill patients with Covid infection. It is obvious that faulty masks put doctors and nurses at risk. The masks have been rejected because they do not meet the safety requirements. They do not fit well on the face or have membranes that do not function properly.
There are different types of face masks: the surgical masks, like in picture 1.
The personal protective equipment (PPE) masks (see picture 2) are designed and manufactured to be worn or held by one person to protect against one or more risks to that person’s health or safety. These are the ones which are most urgently needed.
A PPE face mask protects the user against pathogens that can be spread through the air. These masks need to comply with EU standard EN 149: 2001 + A1: 2009. However, in view of the exceptional situation, the European Commission on 13 March 2020 announced deviations and exceptionally accepts masks that do not bear the CE marking, provided that such products are made available only during the current crisis and do not enter regular distribution channels. Also certification or test reports are accepted according to equivalent international standards. For China this means standard GB 2626-2006 (KN100, KP100, KN95, KP95) issued by certified bodies.
On 16 March 2020 the Belgian government has set up a task force, under the leadership of Philippe De Backer, to secure the sourcing of such protective equipment and materials. There are however concerns that non-compliant materials have already been distributed to Belgian hospitals. Deliveries supplied with insufficient documentation of which do not meet the safety requirements will not be released by Belgian customs any longer.
The Belgian-Chinese Chamber BCECC advises all stakeholders to be aware of these major concerns and only engage in the trading of protective materials and equipment which comply with the relevant regulations. Please contact us in case you are looking for qualified suppliers in China.
Please refer to the following websites in different languages for more information about this topic:
- For general information about the Coronavirus, please click here
- To read about Chinese face masks being detained by overseas customs, please click here
Image: Victor J. Blue, Bloomberg