The Netherlands is the latest country to reject China-made coronavirus testing kits and other protective gear, calling the items substandard and raising serious questions about the quality of the supplies Beijing is selling to the world.
The Netherlands joins Spain, Turkey, Georgia, and the Czech Republic in their concerns over masks and test kits. The claims come as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surge in the United States and Europe, highlighting the dependence many countries have on Chinese imports.
The Dutch health ministry said over the weekend that it was forced to recall 600,000 face masks that were shipped from China on March 21 after they were found to be faulty. Some of the masks failed to fit the mouth properly while others were found to have insufficient filters, the government said.
“Health care workers have been informed and told not to use the masks. Due to the shortages, we can find ourselves in a situation where only protective equipment is available that does not meet the highest standards,” the health ministry said in a statement. “This is an issue in all countries.”
On Monday, the Netherlands said the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus hit nearly 4,000. Of those, 507 new patients were admitted to the hospital. The number of deaths rose by 93 to 864.
Testing in the Netherlands is mostly confined to people with serious symptoms, meaning it’s likely the numbers of cases of coronavirus are higher.
On March 19, Bruno Bruins, the medical care minister leading the Dutch government’s fight against the coronavirus, resigned after collapsing from exhaustion during a parliamentary debate on the pandemic a day earlier.
Bruins fell to the floor in parliament while taking questions. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was unclear how long it would take for Bruins to recover, though Bruins vowed to come back as soon as possible.
“The nature of this crisis is such that it demands a minister who can be ready to go full throttle immediately,” Rutte said during a televised press briefing.
DutchNews.nl reported Monday the government will likely extend its social distancing directives past its current April 6 deadline.
Last week, Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said the country had bought $467 million in medical supplies from China, including 950 ventilators, 5.5 million testing kits, 11 million gloves, and more than half a billion protective face masks.
Soon after receiving the supplies, the government announced plans to return 9,000 “quick result” test kits to China, because they were deemed substandard, specifically the sensibility of the test was around 30 percent when it should be higher than 80 percent.
“China creates the poison and sells the solution to it,” foreign affairs expert Gordon Chang told Fox News.
Beijing admitted that the kits they sold to Spain were bought from Bioeasy, a Chinese company not licensed to make them.
China announced late last week that it was launching an investigation into Bioeasy.