Many Mask Factories in China Don’t Meet Sanitation, Quality Standards: Chinese Broker

Updated: 2020-04-07 18:03:03

Workers at many factories manufacturing masks in China do not wear masks or gloves while handling the products, a Chinese broker has revealed, prompting further questions about the quality of Chinese medical supplies amid a global shortage.

Chen Guohua, a pseudonym for a Chinese broker who facilitates the export of masks manufactured in China, told Chinese tech news outlet Tech World that 60 percent of factories don’t have sterile work environments.

He recounted visiting one factory that was covered with dust, where workers were handling masks from the factory line with bare hands and without wearing masks.

“Who would dare to use masks that are manufactured like this? Who would dare to wear it on their face?” Chen said.

The revelations come amid reports of shoddy medical equipment coming from China, as countries scramble to supply health workers and citizens with protective gear. China has exported 3.86 billion masks, 37.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment, 16,000 ventilators, and 2.84 million testing kits since March 1, customs official Jin Hai told news agency AFP on April 4.

But countries including the Netherlands, Turkey, and Spain, have complained that some Chinese-made supplies did not meet quality standards.

The Netherlands on March 28 announced it had recalled around 600,000 masks shipped from a Chinese manufacturer. Dutch health officials said the masks didn’t fit properly or had defective filters.

Most recently, the UK said it would be seeking refunds for millions of virus antibody test kits ordered from China after a study found they returned inaccurate results, The Telegraph reported.

Last week the Chinese regime tightened rules around the export of medical equipment in an attempt to address these concerns. Authorities announced on March 31 that only manufacturers who were accredited to sell their products within China could export test kits, surgical masks, protective gowns, ventilators, and infrared thermometers.

Since the rule change, Chinese customs have confiscated 11.2 million medical supplies that came from unaccredited manufacturers, according to customs data released on April 5. This included 9.9 million masks, 155,000 protective suits, and 1.08 million testing kits.

Chen was until recently an e-commerce seller, but switched to exporting masks after receiving increased requests from his overseas clients as the pandemic worsened outside of China.

He said that most of the factories making masks were initially textile or electronics factories that quickly shifted production to meet the surging demand, so their equipment and technology often don’t meet the standards.

According to Chinese financial news site Sanyan Blockchain, almost 5,500 mask manufactures were set up in China between Jan. 23 and March 11.

Chen added that some factories would simply purchase the accreditation needed to make masks.

Videos of unsanitary factory conditions have also circulated on Chinese social media, drawing heavy criticism from netizens.

Some footage shows workers not using gloves when handling masks being processed on a conveyer belt, while one video shows a man wiping his shoe with a bunch of masks piled on the floor.

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