The Belgian government may have destroyed millions of respiratory masks in order to make room for incoming refugees, according to reports.
A massive stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) was hauled out of buildings so they could be repurposed for 'refugee resettlement,' a retired official has revealed.
Maggie De Block, Belgium's Public Health Minister, has claimed the masks were disposed of because they were expired and in bad condition, SCEPTR reports.
However, Marc Caekebeke, who once oversaw the reserve supplies of PPE, has challenged De Block's assertions, saying most of the masks were in working order despite being slightly past their technical expiration date.
“It is true that they were expired,” Caekebeke told Het Nieuwsblad. “I believe the first masks destroyed in 2015 had an expiration date to 2010. The last pieces destroyed in 2018 were good until 2015, but I think the main reason was lack of space.”
“In 2015, the government decided that the Red Cross would use some of the buildings to receive refugees. Room had to be made, for which I certainly do not want to throw stones at the aid organization or anyone else.”
Caekebeke said an official overseeing the operation even signaled his doubt the masks needed to be destroyed, instead suggesting they be 'donated to Africa.'
Experts have explained that expiration dates on masks generally apply to the rubber bands used to hold them in place, and not as much their efficacy in filtering germs.
Caekebeke says the older masks would likely be very useful for non-medical professionals during the coronavirus outbreak, such as supermarket cashiers and police officers.
De Block is now under pressure to resign due to her mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak in Belgium.
CSC-Public Services, a union representing government employees, has published an open letter blasting De Block, citing a national shortage of protective masks.
“Your total and reckless lack of foresight, following the non-renewal of the strategic stockpile of FFP2 masks, really endangers front-line people as well as patients,” the union said.
“After this serious mistake, for which you keep on rejecting the blame, we also had to live through the episode of ordering ‘supposedly failed’ masks, due to the anticipated non-payment of your FPS Public Health.”
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(PHOTO: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)Dan Lyman: Follow @CitizenAnalyst