Millions of face masks from China land in Czech Republic

/ 07:14 PM March 22, 2020

An employee of the National Theater sews a face mask in a costume workshop in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 19, 2020. On Thursday Czech Republic has made it mandatory that all people must cover their mouths and noses in public to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. Improvised methods such as a scarf or homemade mask are allowed. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)


PRAGUE,  Czech Republic —  A giant cargo plane carrying over 100 tons of medical material from China, including million of face masks, has landed at a Czech airport, the defense ministry said on Sunday.


The Czech Republic, which by Sunday had 1,047 confirmed coronavirus cases including six cured patients and no deaths, has been grappling with a shortage of face masks and disinfectants.

The shortage has led thousands of Czechs to make face masks at home as the state banned people from leaving home without their nose and mouth covered.


The An-124 Ruslan plane, which also carried respirators from Shenzhen landed before midnight Saturday in the central city of Pardubice as part of NATO’s SALIS (Strategic Airlift International Solution) program.

“We are planning another two (Ruslan) flights this month,” Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar said in a statement, adding they could take place on Tuesday and then at the end of March.

Czech media said the plane carried 5 million face masks, 2 million respirators and other medical material weighing 106 tons in total, while a China Eastern plane that landed in Prague an hour later carried 7 million face masks.

Another China Eastern plane with more than a million face masks already landed in Prague on Friday.

Schools, pubs, theatres, cinemas, and other facilities are closed across the Czech Republic, an EU member of 10.7 million people.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said Friday he expected three planes with medical material to arrive from China every week for at least the next six weeks.


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TAGS: China, Coronavirus, Czech, facemasks, Health, NATO, Transport
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