Defective KN95 masks are being recovered by the Government of the Northwest Territories after Health Canada issued a recall.
The recall was first issued on May 11, after the territory had already ordered and even received some shipments of the product.
A news release said the masks do not meet the 95 per cent filtration specifications for medical respirators in Canada. They were manufactured by several different companies overseas.
In an email Tuesday afternoon, the territorial government said it ordered 7,000 masks. Of that, 5,520 were distributed and are now being recalled. The government will not be accepting the remaining 1,480 masks that are on back order.
The shipment for the 5,520 masks cost about $22,000, for which the government said it will be seeking reimbursement. It will not be paying for the masks on back order.
Countries have been scrambling to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
Health Canada said on its website it has expedited its approval “for products that can help limit the spread of COVID-19.”
The ordered KN95 masks were part of an effort to support communities, Indigenous governments and non-government organizations, the news release said.
“The GNWT takes this matter very seriously and we are doing all we can to inform communities and organizations about the KN95 mask recall and to ensure we have the processes in place to prevent a similar situation from happening again. We are already actively working to replenish this order as we assist communities and residents to find the PPE supplies that will protect them from the COVID-19 virus and keep them safe,” said Caroline Cochrane, premier of the Northwest Territories, in a news release.
The GNWT is in the process of contacting the community governments and organizations who received shipments. The news release said the government will be informing the groups they cannot use the masks for medical or industrial purposes.
Updated May 19, 3 p.m.