Belgium Destroyed Millions of Medical Masks in 2019 and Did Not Replace Them

In a May 6, 2009 file photo a store attendantholds an N-95 mask over a box of disposable surgical masks in Manila, Philippines. Health workers caring for patients who have or may have swine flu should wear a special type of mask called an N95 respirator, not looser-fitting surgical masks, …
AP Photo/ Pat Roque/file

The government of Belgium destroyed millions of expired FFP2 masks in 2019 but did replace them due to economic reasons.

Six million FFP2 masks, which along with N95 masks have proven to be highly effective at stopping the airborne spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, were destroyed after being stockpiled during the H1N1 flu epidemic in 2009.

Belgium’s Public Health Minister Maggie De Block decided not to replace the expired masks, according to a report from the daily newspaper La Libre, due to the costs involved.

The office of the Public Health Minister reacted to the report on Monday evening stating that the masks were unusable and had been destroyed in 2017, not 2019. “The old strategic stock was stored at La Défense but not in good condition. The masks had thus become unusable,” the office said.

The plan, according to the minister’s office, was instead to create a rotating stock of masks which could then avoid the problem of the masks expiring — as the precious stockpile had done — with those approaching expiry being sold and new masks bought.

“Buying masks without a plan is a waste of taxpayers’ money,” the office added.

Belgium, along with many other European countries, have seen large demands for medical masks and respirators contrasted by shortages in supply.

Belgian Secretary of State Philippe De Backer promised a fresh supply of 14 million surgical masks and 1.2 million FFP2 masks on Sunday, saying they would arrive at some point during the week.

Other countries have even begun seizing shipments of FFP3 medical masks, including France which impounded two lorries containing 130,000 masks last week that were bound for the UK. The move came just a day after France had seized a shipment of hand sanitiser.

Thieves have also targetted supplies of medical masks in Germany where hospitals in Cologne were raided earlier in the month and an estimated 50,000 masks were stolen.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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