Greek officials red-faced after 'parachute' mask fiasco


Athens (AFP)

Greek officials were red-faced Tuesday after a scheme to send hundreds of thousands of free masks to schools nationwide backfired spectacularly owing to wrong measurements.

"The size was too large from the start," said contractor Yiannis Stathopoulos, whose company won the tender for 500,000 masks.

He told Open TV he was asked to make 10-centimetre by 18-centimetre masks for children up to 10 years old, and 12 cms by 22 cms masks for older pupils and teachers.

On Monday, when the supplies were handed out on the first day of school, pupils flooded the Internet with pictures of the mask covering their entire face.

Greek twitter users soon set up a group titled 'parachute masks'.

"There was a misunderstanding," deputy health minister Vassilis Kontozamanis told reporters on Tuesday, adding that the measurements given were for "pre-stitched" fabric.

"This will be fixed," he vowed.

Stathopoulos, the mask-maker, insisted he had followed the rules of his contract to the letter, noting they had been set by Greece's state committee of coronavirus health experts.

Even the Greek prime minister's sister, ruling party MP Dora Bakoyannis, admitted that the "Zorro" masks were a "catastrophic failure".

Masks are compulsory in schools, on board public transport and inside public buildings.

On Tuesday, the civil protection authority said they should also be worn inside Athens office areas.

Greece has recorded over 13,000 coronavirus cases and 313 deaths.