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Health chief sacked over 'shameless' move amid scramble for coronavirus supplies

A health chief in China has been sacked after he orchestrated the interception and distribution of thousands of protective masks intended for a different city amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Yang Yanchi, head of the health bureau of Dali – a popular tourist city in southwest China's Yunnan Province - was dismissed after taking 598 boxes of masks which were intended for the hard-hit city of Chongqing, local authorities said on Thursday.

When instructed to return the masks, health officials in Dali revealed they had already distributed them and it was impossible to recall them.

Some of the masks reportedly kept by Dali. Source: Weibo
Some of the masks reportedly kept by Dali. Source: Weibo

Chongqing, one of China’s mega cities homing more than 30 million people when including its surrounding municipality, has 400 confirmed cases and two deaths compared to Dali which has less than one million residents and just eight cases of coronavirus.

The incident sparked outrage in China and highlights the drastic measures people are taking in provinces worst hit by the virus scrambling to ensure there are enough supplies.

“I am a native of Yunnan and I am disgusted,” oner person commented on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

Others labelled the move by Dali officials as “shameless”.

Masks have become hot property in China with production going into overdrive. Source: Xinhua
Masks have become hot property in China with production going into overdrive. Source: Xinhua

Regions fight over coronavirus protection supplies

Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, is also facing dwindling supplies. The city, which has more than 10,000 confirmed cases of infection, has called on public support for protective supplies such as masks and suits.

The central government said on Saturday that Premier Li Keqiang had asked the European Union to help China get urgent medical supplies.

In recent days, state media have shared images of masks and protective gowns in mass production to ease fears spreading across the country.

Other state media also reported that Qingdao in Shandong province gave instructions to its customs to hold on to a shipment of masks and other medical products en route to the northeastern city of Shenyang from South Korea.

Qingdao kept the masks in a tit-for-tat move because it believed Shenyang was holding on to a separate shipment of masks en route to Qingdao, state-controlled China Business News reported on Thursday, citing internal documents.

But both cities have since resolved their dispute, with the two shipments on their way to the respective cities, China Business News said.

On Monday the first patients arrived at Wuhan’s newly built Huoshenshan Hospital which was constructed in just 10 days as the city’s current medical infrastructure struggled to cope with the spike in patients.

With Reuters

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