Health officials in Germany have incinerated more than 17 million expired COVID-19 masks.
The unused medical masks – bought in the first months of the pandemic – were reportedly destroyed because they had passed their use-by date.
German health authorities were greatly criticised for having spent EUR 6 billion (GBP 5.3 billion) at the beginning of the pandemic on protective covers, which they reportedly used personal connections to purchase.
Ex health minister Jens Spahn justified his actions at the time by claiming that the country was facing supply shortages.
But by the end of last year, initial calls for tenders were announced for candidates to ‘thermally dispose’ of approximately 730 million surgical and 60 million FFP-2 expired COVID-19 masks by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health.
So far the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has destroyed about 6.1 million of the masks, while a total of 5.5 million have been burnt in the state of Saxony.
The states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania discarded five million and 656,000 respectively.
A total of eleven federal states announced that they had not yet disposed of any COVID-19 masks, but plan to.
Several state ministries reported that they intend to have more masks destroyed in the future, but are prevented by strict German laws which do not allow them to destroy masks acquired and distributed by the federal government.
When asked when such an approval can be expected, a spokesperson from the health ministry said: “The BMG [Federal Ministry of Health] is in regular contact with both the federal states and the General Directorate of Customs.”