Germany: Thieves Steal 50,000 Face Masks from Hospitals in Cologne

Breathing protection mask of the category FFP3 are displayed at the production site of Moldex-Metric, a German producer of working protection clothes, in Walddorfhaeslach, southern Germany, on March 12, 2020. - Due to the outspread of the coronavirus COVID-19, there is a strong demand on medical protective, especially of protection …
THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP via Getty Images

Thieves in Germany raided hospitals in Cologne, stealing medical face masks from clinics throughout the city to re-sell on the black market, as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police in Germany said that a group of thieves targeted a logistics centre that stocks medical clinics throughout Cologne with medical supplies. The thieves stole an estimated 50,000 medical face masks, which have soared in value since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“This is a new quality of theft. We’re talking about items that normally have a value measured in cents, but apparently there’s a market for them now,” a hospital spokeswoman said per Deutsche Welle.

Luckily, the spokeswoman said the city is not facing a shortage of masks as a result of the heinous crime. However, the city has ordered all stocks of medical supplies to be checked and secured in response to the robbery.

Similar crimes have been reported throughout the country since the start of the outbreak, with thieves stealing 1,200 face masks in Lower Saxony in March. Hospitals in North Rhine Westphalia said that hundreds of bottles of hand sanitiser, which is in short supply, had been stolen this month as well.

In Berlin, a children’s cancer ward was also targeted by thieves, stealing respirators, disinfectant, gloves, and personal protective equipment. The hospital was already running short on masks after another group of thieves attacked a delivery shipment headed for the children’s intensive care unit.

In March, Germany banned the export of face masks and other medical supplies to other countries in order to safeguard the country’s medical system from supply shortages. The country now faces one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus in Europe, with nearly 7,000 confirmed cases and 14 deaths, according to the BBC.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron ordered the seizure of all medical facemasks in the country as well as all future production of the masks to protect against looting and shortages. The decision came after a spate of robberies of French hospitals. A hospital in Marseille reported the theft of 2,000 masks and a Paris health authority said that over 8,000 masks and 1,200 bottles of hand sanitiser had been stolen.

On Monday, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that Italy is facing massive shortages in medical supplies and protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers. Some 1,700 healthcare workers in the country have become infected with the coronavirus, representing eight per cent of the total number of cases in Italy.

“Even in high-level European hospitals we see health workers are overwhelmed, coping with up to 80 ambulances per day, with dramatic shortages of protective equipment that puts them at great risk,” said Dr Claudia Lodesani the president of MSF in Italy.

“Some doctors are forced to wear the same face mask for 12 hours,” she added.

“Without an influx of urgently needed protective equipment, more healthcare workers will fall ill, reducing the availability of care for patients, generating new clusters of cases, and dangerously weakening the fight against the disease,” Dr Lodesani warned.

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