Germany is investigating the loss of 6 million masks ordered for health workers against the coronavirus pandemic after the protective gear purportedly went missing at an airport in Kenya last week.
Kenyan authorities have deemed it fake news as German customs official say they ordered the shipment to FFP2 masks and they were supposed to arrive in Germany on the 20th of March, but it is unclear why the masks should end up in Kenya.
The FFP2 masks, which filter out more than 90% of particles, were ordered by German customs authorities. They and the armed forces procurement office have been helping the health ministry to get hold of urgently needed protective gear.
“The authorities are trying to find out what happened,” a German defense ministry spokeswoman told the outlet, confirming a report first published by German news site Spiegel Online.
“What exactly happened, whether this is a matter of theft or a provider who isn’t serious, is being cleared up by customs,” a German government source said, asking not to be named.
The Spiegel Online report called the protective mask business a “gold mine worldwide” due to their demand amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, likening it to the trade of rare spices.
“Insiders, therefore, suspect that after the deal with the procurement office, the manufacturer might get a better price for its goods and sell the masks there (in Kenya),” the outlet said in its report. “But it is also possible that criminals stole the delivery at the airport and now sold it profitably in Kenya.”
In Kenya, the Kenya Airports Authority confirmed an investigation was carried out immediately following the media reports on the masks doing a vanishing act.
It was concluded that no such cargo has passed through Kenya’s international airport JKIA in the past two weeks.
In a press statement, the Kenya airports said: ‘Following media reports that a German army shipment of 6 million masks meant for protection against COVID-19 virus vanished at JKIA last week, KAA has conducted an investigation into the matter. Our investigation has concluded that there was no cargo of this nature that has passed through JKIA for the last two weeks and no missing cargo has been reported to the authorities.’
The KAA went further to clarify saying they wish to inform the public that they are treating their report of the disappearance as fake news and that their cargo section continues with normal operations.
German officials told news outlets there was no financial loss on the shipment, and they were continuing to investigate the matter.
“What exactly happened, whether this a matter of theft or a provider who isn’t serious, is being cleared up by customs,” a German government source told Reuters.
Germany has at least 33,952 coronavirus cases, the fifth largest in the world, and reported 171 deaths. Protective gear has been in short supply in Europe, where the immense number of cases has overwhelmed hospitals and health workers.
Spiegel Online reported Germany has placed orders worth 241 million euros ($260.57 million) with suppliers for protective and sanitary equipment to fight the novel coronavirus.
The defence ministry spokeswoman said there was no financial impact from the loss of the masks as no money had been paid.
Germany is preparing its hospitals and health workers for a big increase in admissions of patients with the virus.