German Health Minister Jens Spahn is facing fierce cross-party criticism after a report emerged about his ministry’s plans to dispose of unusable face masks by handing them out to vulnerable groups amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Health Ministry on Saturday hit back at the claims made in the German magazine Der Spiegel, saying all its masks had been tested to a high standard and that protection of the wearer was its top priority.
The unfit face mask scandal
The magazine on Friday reported that the Health Ministry had ordered face masks from China in Spring 2020 for an estimated €1 billion ($1.2 billion). The order was placed amid a global mask shortage and had not been tested to meet EU standards.
Due to this, the masks were unable to be used on arrival and needed to undergo emergency testing to be deemed fit for use.
The Ministry of Health under Spahn drew up plans to distribute the masks to the homeless, the disabled or Hartz IV benefit recipients, the magazine reported.
But the Ministry of Labor, which is responsible for mask safety, refused to give its approval to the plan.
Social Democratic Party (SPD) General Secretary Lars Klingbeil told Der Spiegel on Saturday that the plan was “outrageous and inhumane.”
“The minister must explain himself about this as soon as possible, he cannot point the finger at others here,” Klingbeil added.
“Attempting to get rid of useless masks by giving them away to needy groups in our society … this is simply beyond cynicism and absolutely unacceptable,” Katja Mast, parliamentary group vice chair, also of the SPD, wrote on Twitter on Saturday.