Coronavirus: Germany blocks truck full of protective masks headed for Switzerland

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Coronavirus: Germany blocks truck full of protective masks headed for Switzerland
Photo: AFP

German customs authorities have blocked the export of a truck filled with 240,000 protective masks to Switzerland, which Swiss authorities have said is part of a broader export ban on protective gear.


Switzerland has called for an emergency meeting with the German ambassador about the issue. As reported by the NZZ,  State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) on Sunday called upon “German authorities to release the blocked masks immediately”. 

The situation is particularly severe for Switzerland as the country produces very little protective gear. 

SECO said a truck with 240,000 masks on board was commandeered before it left German soil by customs authorities. SECO added that the interception does not appear to be an isolated incident, with all further transports likely to be blocked. 

German government on Wednesday banned the export of medical protective equipment such as goggles, respiratory masks, protective suits and gloves. France has made a similar order. 

READ ALSO: Germany bans exports of gloves and masks over coronavirus

Hospitals and nursing homes are concerned about the supply of masks in coming weeks, as the stock is already below optimal levels. 

In a press conference on Sunday, the Head of Communicable Diseases Division at the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health said the country has a reserve of two different types of masks, some of which have been distributed to health centres already. 

On the diplomatic dispute with Germany regarding the import of masks, Koch said simply “We are trying to buy masks and protection material.”

Avoiding 'mask hysteria'

Health officials have frequently told the general public that healthy people should not wear masks and to refrain from purchasing them as they make it more difficult for sick people and medical professionals to access them. 

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment.

Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Some 3.4 percent of cases are fatal, according to the latest WHO figures. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

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