More than one thousand Spanish healthcare workers had to go into isolation after a batch of face masks from China turned out to be defective.
And thousands more will reportedly have to undergo testing to determine if they are infected after being exposed to the novel coronavirus as the faulty face masks were in use for 10 days before being ordered withdrawn last Friday, according to El País.
The lack of personal protective equipment has dogged Spain since the outbreak began to spread there in mid-February, but the purchase of 350,000 to 400,000 masks from the Chinese firm Garry Galaxy has apparently made the situation worse. And Spain’s Health Ministry is not even sure how many of the masks were faulty.
The shortage of PPE has been cited by the Health Ministry as the main cause for the high infection rate in healthcare workers, who represent 15 per cent of all infections in Spain, with more than 31,000 of them having contracted the virus. Dozens of healthcare professionals, including 34 doctors, have died of the virus, according to El País wich noted that actual figures will likely be higher.
A recent survey conducted by a nurses association revealed that about 70,000 nurses may be infected.
Each of Spain’s regions have their own healthcare system and are working on identifying any staff who may have used the defective masks and been potentially exposed to the highly contagious virus.
More than 1,100 healthcare workers have been isolated in Murcia, in southeastern Spain, while the Balearic Islands is also taking precautions as its professionals used 2,800 of the 30,000 masks. Meanwhile, 12 workers have tested positive for coronavirus in Andalusia.
Basque Country health chief, Nekane Murga, indicated that health system in that region “had received 124,000 masks from the Garry Galaxy brand, although we do not know how many of these were defective.”
“From that total, 13,200 were distributed among health professionals and institutions, but we do not know how many of these were defective,” Murga added.
“The arrival of the masks did not see us lower our safety measures,” Isabel Camacho, a nurse at a healthcare center in Marchamalo, Guadalajara, said. “But there is great concern now.”
“There are people who worked the whole day using a mask that offers 10 minutes of protection,” the General Council of Nursing Associations stated.
A report updated by the Health Ministry last week found that the “high contagion” rate among health personnel was likely due to them being “improperly protected” and citing the “serious global [PPE] shortage problem.”
The Spanish government was also reportedly trying to get a refund last month from Bioeasy, a Shenzhen-based Chinese company that provided 640,000 defective coronavirus antigen test kits. The Health Ministry canceled the order and was seeking a refund on the kits which were actually shipped to replace a previous order of kits which also did not have the proper sensitivity levels to detect the coronavirus.
Other nations battling the global pandemic also faced issues with faulty materials from China.
The Netherlands found that the 1.3 million masks it had ordered from the communist nation last month were useless due to faulty membranes.
“They do not fit well on the face or have membranes that do not function properly, the very fine filters that have to stop virus particles,” a spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport told De Telegraaf.
Nearly 80 percent of the 300,000 rapid test kits purchased from China by the Czech Republic were also defective, according to Prague Morning. Despite the many reports of problems with the products from China, respirators, ventilator parts, masks, and other personal protective equipment were shipped into the United Kingdom earlier this month.
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