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Almost 90 million poor quality face masks confiscated in China

07:12 | 27/04/2020

China has confiscated more than 89 million shoddy face masks, a government official said on April 26, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). .

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China released new rules on Saturday (Apr 25) saying even non-medical masks must meet both national and international quality standards. (Photo: AFP/Wang Zhao)

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

But Beijing faces a slew of complaints about faulty protective gear exported worldwide, mostly for use by medical workers and vulnerable groups.

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 said last week 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.

As of April 24, China's market regulators had inspected nearly 16 million businesses and seized more than 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 (USD 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 April 25 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.

According to Reuters, the new ruling applies to products such as coronavirus tests, medical masks, protective suits, infrared thermometers and ventilators.

"Tonight's new rule is a revision to (the older rule)," said Zhang Shuwen, the CEO of Liming Bio-products, a biotech firm offering coronavirus tests targeting the overseas market. "It's wrong to have a one-size-fits-all policy..."

"Each country may have different criteria for medicines and medical devices. The priority is to meet the requirement in the countries where the product will be sold, instead of where the product is made," Zhang said.

The previous ban vexed medical device firms in the cities of Hangzhou and Shenzhen, who tried to seek help from local governments, Zhang added.

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./.

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Hannah Nguyen