Belgium destroyed millions of face coverings in 2015-18

A probe conducted by VRT’s Pano TV programme has revealed that dozens of millions of face coverings were destroyed between 2015 and 2018. The masks were not tested before they were destroyed.  Subsequent testing of surviving masks shows they were still good and could have saved lives earlier this year.

Journalists have discovered that former Belgian health minister Maggie De Block (Flemish liberal - pictured) ordered the destruction of face coverings without any checks being carried out to see if they could still be used. Some of the equipment survived the destruction.  VRT had it tested and discovered the equipment could still be used.  Experts suggest the stocks could have saved lives during the first wave of coronavirus to hit Belgium that, by international standards, claimed a high toll.

In 2006 the Belgian government implemented a pandemic plan.  Dozens of millions of face coverings were stockpiled. The coverings were stored in poor conditions that meant some of the supplies had deteriorated.  Some had also passed their use before date. They were all destroyed between 2015 and 2018. Five million FFP2 masks that had passed their use before date were incinerated in 2015.  Surgical masks were kept at a military facility till 2018 but as the barracks was being sold they too were destroyed. Destroying the masks proved cheaper than storing them elsewhere.

The masks were never replaced and Belgium faced a fatal shortage earlier this year.

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