Coronavirus: how can Europe secure more face masks?

Throughout Europe countries are running out of protective face masks, most of which are produced in China. Germany imposed an export ban at the beginning of March and now the Czech Republic has followed suit. In France all stocks were confiscated so they could be distributed to health workers. Commentators discuss ways to deal with the shortages.

Open/close all quotes
Le Monde (FR) /

Sellers have too much power

The market situation poses serious political problems, Laurence Folliot-Lalliot, professor of public law, writes in Le Monde:

“The logic of state purchases has been reversed: sellers are in a dominant position and determine the prices while buyers are competing with each other. Prices are rising uncontrollably, purchases need to be approved very quickly, which undermines traditional administrative approval mechanisms. ... The dire impact of such behaviour on the supply chains of much-needed medical equipment is palpable: medical staff, who are on the front line when it comes to infection, are being put at risk, the population is growing desperate in the face of slow deliveries, national debt is growing and corruption and mafia structures are being reinforced.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The mask fiasco

The attempt to set up an Italian production line for protective masks has failed miserably, La Repubblica complains:

“On Tuesday, 24 March, Prime Minister Conte and his emergency commissioner Domenico Arcuri promised the Italians on television that within 96 hours an Italian consortium of fashion companies would start producing masks 'so that our doctors are finally ready for this war'. Seven days have passed since this promise yet not a single professional mask has been produced. ... Instead of striving to cut down on red tape a regulatory apparatus has been created that contains an incredible paradox: to speed up the process of obtaining a quality certificate three different certifications are needed.”

Observator Cultural (RO) /

A huge chance for Romania

Romania should seize this opportunity to get back on its feet economically, Observator Cultural urges:

“In 2020 we can simply no longer import face masks, protective goggles, scrubs, disposable shoes or gloves from South Korea. In the 1980s we produced everything ourselves, starting with tractors, trucks, cement, and cars ... Now we only grow tomatoes and the processing plants have disappeared, as has domestic production. But we can start it up again. ... This is a huge chance to revive Romania's economy despite the poor conditions. Because the exemplary mobilisation and pooling of resources at our disposal have shown that we have excellent moral reserves.”

Diena (LV) /

Better to strengthen the domestic economy

On a special flight 900,000 face masks and 80,000 ventilators were brought from China to Latvia. Diena is stunned:

“What, are masks and ventilators now only available in China? Are there no larger or smaller companies in Latvia - not even two or three - that are able to obtain a contract from the state and produce these vital items here and now? ... If they were made in Latvia this would be a source of revenue for entrepreneurs, as well as providing jobs and salaries for the people. And most importantly, the local economy would be supported. But instead it's much easier for our government to place an order in China, 5,000 kilometres away, transfer the money and pay for the aircraft fuel.”