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Belgium launches fraud investigation over missing coronavirus masks
Belgian authorities fear they may have fallen victim to a coronavirus scam - after a €5 million order for protective masks failed to turn up.
Belgium had joined several European neighbours in a group purchase for protective gear from a Turkish company several weeks ago.
The supplier was due to deliver the masks - which were intended for general practitioners and hospital staff - by Sunday evening.
Le Soir newspaper said the chances that the masks would be delivered as planned were "minimal".
The Belgian federal prosecutor's office has opened a fraud investigation. Health minister Maggie De Block said "other avenues" were being pursued.
"We are expecting an initial limited shipment of masks early next week," she said. "These will be distributed among care providers. We also have different contacts with other suppliers that are now accelerating."
Leading Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst told VRT's De Zevende Dag programme. "We really need these masks. We are facing a big problem."
He said Belgium had built up a national stock of protective masks during the H1N1 flu crisis in 2009, but added: "The stock has not been replenished."
Photo: Eric Lalmand/Belga