Czechs send Italy replacement masks after seizing thousands sent from China
By Yaron Steinbuch
March 23, 2020
Amid accusations of stealing thousands of face masks that China donated to coronavirus-battered Italy, the Czech Republic sent 110,000 of the much-needed protective items to Rome as compensation for the snafu, according to a report.
“We’ve just sent 110,000 face masks to Italy by bus heading to Rome … along with 43 Italian tourists who could not get back home,” Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek told Agence France-Presse.
“The Czech Republic certainly didn’t steal anything,” he said, adding that Prague had sent 10,000 more replacement masks of the “same type.”
On Saturday, the Italian daily la Repubblica reported that Czech authorities seized Chinese masks intended for Italian hospitals under the guise of a sting against traffickers.
In the article, headlined “How the Czech Republic sequestered thousands of masks sent from China to Italy,” the news outlet cited as a source “courageous Czech researcher” Lukas Lev Cervinka, an adviser to deputy Jan Lipavsky of the anti-establishment Czech Pirate Party.
Czech police last week said they carried out an anti-trafficking operation in which they seized 680,000 masks and ventilators from a warehouse of a private company in Lovosice, north of Prague.