The Chinese embassy to Canada on Monday claimed that a minor “contractual” issue caused a million Chinese N95 masks exported to Canada last month to be defective and useless.
The Chinese claimed the contractual issue has been addressed. Canadian officials were literally left speechless by the embassy’s breezy statement.
The huge shipment of masks in question was rejected by inspectors from the Canadian Health Ministry in the last week of April because they did not meet filtration standards.
The masks were actually built to the KN95 standard, a Chinese designation considered substandard by the United States but normally accepted as a substitute for N95 masks in Canada. The Health Ministry said the million masks it rejected were “non-compliant with specifications for health care settings” but might be usable for other purposes.
Chinese suppliers promised to replace the million defective masks and Canadian purchases of Chinese equipment continued on a massive scale, at tremendously inflated prices due to heavy global demand.
A few days before the defective mask shipment arrived in Canada, two Canadian cargo planes that were supposed to pick up medical equipment in China were bizarrely turned away because, according to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the airport in Shanghai would not allow them to remain on the ground long enough to load their cargo. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Trudeau’s account was “inaccurate” but offered no alternative explanation.
Not long before that, the city of Toronto recalled 60,000 Chinese surgical masks because they were so poorly made that they ripped apart when healthcare workers tried to use them.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa blew the million mask controversy off in a tweet on Monday:
It's reported that 1 million face masks exported to Canada from China failed to meet proper standards for health care professionals. The latest thing we've found out from communication with Global Affairs Canada is that the problem was a contractual matter and has been resolved.
— ChineseEmbassyOttawa (@ChinaEmbOttawa) May 4, 2020
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Health Minister Patty Hadju were comically “perplexed” when asked about the Chinese statement at a press conference, as reported by Canada’s Global News:
Freeland looked puzzled and turned to Hajdu beside her shaking her head.
“We’ll have to get details back to you,” Hajdu said. “I’m sorry we don’t have that technical information right now.”
It was inspectors in Hajdu’s department who rejected the shipment of N95 masks, which arrived in Canada in the third week of April.
Neither her office, nor Global Affairs Canada had provided any explanation as of Monday evening.
Taiwan donated 500,000 surgical masks to Canada on Monday, the bulk of them allotted to the Canadian Red Cross. The Taiwanese masks appear to have passed quality control checks.