More face masks arriving from China, as two Supply Agency staff are suspended

There's an investigation ongoing into the National Emergency Supply Agency's actions in awarding contracts for face masks that did not follow the usual procedures.

Masks and respirators arrive from China at Helsinki Airport, Tuesday 7th April 2020 / Credit: Tomi Lounema, NESA

Two members of the management team at the National Emergency Supply Agency NESA have been suspended from their positions while an investigation is carried out into the purchase of faulty medical face masks.

The Director of NESA Tomi Lounema already resigned on Friday after admitting that proper background checks weren’t carried out into the companies or individuals behind two multi-million euro contracts to purchase medical-grade face masks from China.

NESA made deals with a Finnish beautician who runs a plastic surgery business in Estonia, and another businessman who operates a payday loan operation. The pair have since quarreled in public about who owes money to whom.

The shipment of masks arrived in Finland last Tuesday afternoon, and while two million of them destined for care homes were okay, a further 230,000 of them intended for hospital use were not up to the standard required.

Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen (SDP) has ordered an inquiry into possibly failings at NESA which is due to be completed on Tuesday.

More protective equipment arriving

Meanwhile NESA has said that new shipments of protective equipment will be arriving in Finland in the next few days.

One cargo flight is scheduled to land on Tuesday, with two more flights in the following days.

Tuesday’s shipment will include surgical masks manufactured by a Chinese company in accordance with Chinese hospital protection standards.

While any protective equipment will be tested by the Technical Research Centre VTT to ensure it meets European standards, there is some deviation allowed “in exceptional circumstances” in accordance with new Ministry of Social Affairs and Health guidelines issued at the end of March.