China seizes over 89 million shoddy face masks

Health personnel monitors the body temperature of passengers who arrived in a flight from Milano, Italy to Krakow Airport in Balice, Poland in February 2020. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Health personnel monitors the body temperature of passengers who arrived in a flight from Milano, Italy to Krakow Airport in Balice, Poland in February 2020. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

China has confiscated over 89 million poor quality face masks, a government official said on Sunday, as Beijing faces a slew of complaints about faulty protective gear exported worldwide.

Demand for protective equipment has soared as nations across the globe battle the deadly coronavirus, which has infected nearly 2.9 million people.

But a number of countries have complained about faulty masks and other products exported by China, mostly for use by medical workers and vulnerable groups.

As of Friday, China's market regulators had inspected nearly 16 million businesses and seized over 89 million masks and 418 000 pieces of protective gear, said Gan Lin, deputy director of the State Administration of Market Regulation, at a press conference.

Regulators had also seized ineffective disinfectants worth over 7.6 million yuan ($1.1 million), she said.

It is unclear how much of the confiscated goods were destined for markets abroad.

In a bid to eliminate poor-quality products, China released new rules on Saturday saying even non-medical masks must meet both national and international quality standards.

Exporters must file a written declaration that their medical products meet the safety requirements of the destination country, the ministry of commerce said in a statement.

The tighter rules come after several countries including Spain, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Turkey were forced to recall hundreds of thousands of shoddy masks and pieces of protective gear imported from China.

The Canadian government last week said that about one million face masks purchased from China failed to meet proper standards for healthcare professionals.

Dutch health officials last month recalled over half a million Chinese masks - which had already been sent to hospitals - after complaints that they did not close over the face properly, or had defective filters.

According to official figures, China's daily mask production has passed 116 million.

In the first two months of the year, a staggering 8 950 new manufacturers started producing masks in China, according to business data platform Tianyancha.

Despite the nationwide crackdown, businesses were continuing with illicit production of medical equipment since it was a way to earn "quick money" Jin Hai, a Chinese customs official said earlier this month.

Over 31.6 million faulty masks and 509 000 protective suits destined for export had been confiscated by port officials as of mid-April, he said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Is social media doing more harm than good?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, our children are exposed and we can't protect them
49% - 3596 votes
Yes, but social media is part of the new reality
46% - 3346 votes
No, it's great for growing a child's world view
5% - 356 votes
Vote
USD/ZAR
14.23
-1.0%
GBP/ZAR
19.77
-1.1%
EUR/ZAR
17.17
-0.5%
AUD/ZAR
11.05
-0.8%
JPY/ZAR
0.13
-0.9%
Gold
1,812.90
+1.5%
Silver
27.29
+3.0%
Palladium
2,939.00
-1.3%
Platinum
1,245.62
+1.3%
Brent Crude
68.96
+0.1%
Top 40
61,674
+0.2%
All Share
67,573
+0.3%
Resource 10
70,159
-0.3%
Industrial 25
85,889
+0.3%
Financial 15
12,549
+1.6%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo