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Kirsi Varhila (left), the permanent state secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, and Tomi Lounema, the chief executive of the National Emergency Supply Agency, talked to members of the media in Helsinki on Wednesday, 8 April 2020. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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THE RESPIRATOR MASKS ordered from China by the National Emergency Supply Agency (HVK) to ensure the availability of protective equipment for social and health care staff combatting the coronavirus epidemic have proven sub-standard in terms of quality.

Tomi Lounema, the CEO of HVK, on Wednesday stated in a press conference that the respirator masks do not meet the standards for hospital use in Europe.

The protective equipment can nonetheless be used by, for example, the staff of nursing homes and home care providers to reduce the risk of the virus transmitting to a patient from an asymptomatic carrier, according to Lounema.

Although the shipment of equipment was a disappointment, the equipment can be used to satisfy an urgent need for equipment in home care and nursing homes, echoed Kirsi Varhila, the permanent state secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Finland, she added, was aware of the risk that the equipment might not meet expectations.

The respirator masks were tested by VTT Research Centre of Finland. Lounema highlighted that the demand for masks and other protective equipment has surged amid the coronavirus pandemic, forcing buyers to take on greater risks and pay in advance for equipment that are not guaranteed to meet their expectations.

“The market for protective equipment is very chaotic,” he described.

“There are all sorts of sellers in the market. The equipment that are delivered aren’t necessarily by well-known manufacturers and even their country of origin is unknown. The prices are rising constantly – you have to get a deal done fast and pay in advance. It’s an entirely different situation. The financial risk is very high.”

Media reports indicate that the unit prices of face masks in the higher-quality protection classes of FFP2 and FFP3 have increased more than 15-fold to around seven euros.

Lounema said HVK is set to take delivery of more protective equipment orders from abroad next week and is constantly placing new orders.

Petri Peltonen, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, revealed yesterday that work is already underway to start the production of protective equipment, such as respirator masks, infection control apparel and even ventilators, in Finland. The production, he added, could start in two weeks.

“Consumption is high. We’re talking about a need for hundreds of thousands of single-use masks in health care alone,” he said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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