Government sitting on over 32 million unusable Chinese face masks


Some 32.8 million Chinese face masks, many bought by the company set up by Sywert van Lienden, are not fit for use in hospitals because they do no conform to European quality norms.

The stockpile of KN95 masks is worth around €70m in total, of which over €45m was paid out to Van Lienden and his associates.

The national consortium medical aids LCH, which is responsible for purchases on behalf of the government, will be looking into using the masks outside the care system, a health ministry spokesman told the Volkskrant.

The European Commission allowed the use of the KN95 medical masks at the height of the pandemic but from October 1 they will no longer be provided to care institutions.

According to the paper, the LCH knew the permission given by the EC would be temporary but still went on to buy tens of millions of the now banned face masks, against the advice of professional buyers.

They also advised against the deal with Van Lienden and his associates, who turned out to have earned millions from the deal which they claimed was ‘not for profit’.

Van Lienden himself commented that the matter is ‘nothing to do with us but with the choices made by the LCH which didn’t anticipate on inspection policy’. He also told the paper the masks would be usable ‘if adapted’.


There are currently some 47 million of the high grade FFP2 standard face masks still in stock, 20 million of which were also bought via Van Lienden. All of these can still be used by health professionals.

An additional 720 million surgical masks are sitting in warehouses but these have a rapidly approaching use-by date. It is expected that by May and June 2022 some 300 million face masks will be rendered useless.

Free distribution is not an option, caretaker health minister Hugo de Jonge has said, because it would ‘upset the market’ and that could provoke legal action by suppliers. Face masks have been made compulsory again in all public buildings and shops, as well as in railway stations and airports.

The health ministry is now trying to shift the masks by donating them to charity and selling them in bulk abroad.

Medical gloves, too, are nearing their use by date, the paper said, while some 4.1 million Covid self tests have been destroyed so far because they were too old.

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