Millions of donated masks stuck in airports for months

By Viet Tuan   May 25, 2022 | 04:35 pm PT
Millions of donated masks stuck in airports for months
A health worker wears a mask at a Covid-19 checkpoint in HCMC, May 15, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa
More than 1.1 million masks donated to Vietnam since late last year have not been distributed because they are still stuck at airports over red tape, officials said.

At a National Assembly discussion Wednesday, Truong Thi Ngoc Anh, deputy chairwoman of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front (VFF), an umbrella organization of all political and social groups in Vietnam, said two batches of masks from a company in Germany and from the Vietnamese community in Hong Kong had arrived in November last year.

The batch from Hong Kong, with 1.1 million masks, is still at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport, while the one from Germany, with 40,000 masks, is at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport.

She said the VFF had provided documents on receiving donations requested by customs authorities; then they wanted further confirmations from the finance ministry, though the latter had already responded that it was following current regulations on "receiving and distributing donations to resolve difficulties caused by natural disasters and disease."

When the VFF pointed out they had followed procedures under current regulations, the customs authorities required opinions from the health ministry on exempting the batches from disease control measures.

"We’ve sent our documents to the Ministry of Health, but have received no reply. For over six months, the masks received for the pandemic fight could not be distributed, while we've had to spend money on storage," Anh said.

She requested a change in administrative procedures that would allow the distribution of masks.

"Mechanisms and institutions need to learn from past experiences about the reception of donations for the pandemic fight," she said.

This isn't the first time National Assembly delegates have pointed out the fact that donations for the Covid-19 fight are not being distributed due to customs procedures.

In November last year, delegates spoke about 22,000 cartons of milk donated by the Vietnamese community in Australia to HCMC. This donation could not be distributed for a month due to customs procedures. The matter was resolved a few days after parliament members brought it up.

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