The Czech Republic will send 101,600 face masks, which were donated by Chinese charity and destined for Italy but confiscated by the country due to "misunderstanding", back to their original destination next week, according to the Czech News Agency (CTK) on Sunday.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said he would explain the situation to his Italian counterpart in a letter later in the day and the masks could be driven across the Alps by a coach the Czech Republic is about to send for its citizens in Italy.
"The Czech authorities did not seize the things deliberately," Petricek was quoted by the CTK.
On Friday, Czech Ministry of the Interior and the regional government of Usti nad Labem released a statement, saying they regretted the misunderstanding in the confiscation of 101,600 masks and respirators days ago, which turns out to be Chinese donation to Italy.
On March 17, the Ministry of the Interior and the Usti nad Labem Region detained a batch of imported masks and respirators from a warehouse in the region. Subsequent investigations revealed that the seizure included a separate shipment of 101,600 masks and respirators, which was a donation from the Red Cross of Qingtian City of China's Zhejiang province to Chinese expatriates in Italy, the statement noted.
"The Interior Ministry regretted this misunderstanding and is now discussing with Zhejiang province to deal with the issue," read the statement, signed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Jan Hamacek.
With the rapid spread of COVID-19, the Czech Republic, like many other European countries, faces severe shortage of medical supplies such as masks and respirators. To ensure domestic demand, the country took strict measures, banning export of medical equipment and cracking down on hoarding and other practices which may disrupt the market.
The number of novel coronavirus cases has risen to 1,120 in the country as of Sunday evening, according to data from the Health Ministry.