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Confusion after Czech officials seize China-donated masks bound for Italy

Confusion after Czech officials seize China-donated masks bound for Italy
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Monday, 23 March, 2020, 14:55

Thousands of facemasks sent by China for Italy's beleaguered hospitals have ended up in the Czech Republic in an apparent cross-border imbroglio as Europe, now the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, faces a shortage of masks.

The problem is crucial in Italy, the country currently paying the heaviest price, with almost 5,000 deaths and its hospitals at breaking point.

But the Czech Republic, which is also bracing for a rise in infections, has tightened controls on the export and distribution of such material.It was unclear on Sunday (March 22) whether the incident amounted to a misunderstanding, a logistical error, or deliberate attempt to withhold the masks from Italy.

Italian daily la Repubblica wrote on Saturday that Czech authorities seized Chinese masks intended for Italy's hospitals under guise of a sting against traffickers, in an article titled: "How the Czech Republic sequestered thousands of masks sent from China to Italy."

The newspaper cited as a source "a courageous Czech researcher", Mr Lukas Lev Cervinka, an adviser to deputy Jan Lipavsky of the anti-establishment Czech Pirate Party.