United Kingdom

Covid fraudsters caught selling masks offering no protection and UV lights that do not kill viruses

Covid-19 fraudsters have been caught selling face masks that offer no protection, UK lights that do not kill viruses and gadgets that falsely claim to 'sterilise the air'. 

An urgent warning has been issued to shoppers to avoid buying any of the products that were found on sale by trading standards watchdogs in West Sussex. 

Basic face coverings claiming to be made to a 'KN95' standard were purchased by officers in 23 high street shops across the county including Chichester, Burgess Hill, Crawley and Horsham.

The report says that 'KN95' is a standard used in China and is not recognised in the UK as providing any form of virus protection.

Disposable face coverings claiming to be made to a 'KN95' standard, pictured above, a standard used in China, were purchased by officers in 23 high street shops across West Sussex

In a safety alert, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a UK government agency, warns that masks can only be sold or supplied as PPE if they are CE marked.

It adds that KN95 'must not be used as PPE at work' unless the supply 'has been agreed by HSE as the Market Surveillance Authority'. 

Officers are tracing the supply chain back to the importers and advising the sellers about not stocking products making misleading claims.

Products which claim to kill 99 per cent of viruses using UV lights were also found online, coming in the form of wands that move over surfaces and a box which disinfects items such as mobile phones.

Officers sent a selection of these products for testing and these claims were shown to be false. 

In one example the levels of UV emitted were so low it would have taken at least 12 hours to kill 99 per cent of viruses - which the advertising claimed happened in 5 minutes.

A card which claims to 'sterilise the air' around the user by emitting chlorine dioxide was also found for sale on UK online platforms by officers. There is no scientific basis for this.

Trading Standards informed the Office of Product Safety and Standards who have ensured online market places do not list these products. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that KN95, above, 'must not be used as PPE at work' unless supply 'has been agreed by HSE as the Market Surveillance Authority'

Peter Aston, Trading Standards Team Manager, said: 'We are working hard to ensure residents looking to protect themselves from coronavirus are not lured into purchases by false information.

'All of these products were falsely labelled. Not only would purchasing one of these lead to unnecessary expenditure, it could also make the buyer feel protected from the virus and therefore less likely to take other precautions such as social distancing and frequent hand washing.'

Deborah Urquhart, a Member for Environment at West Sussex County Council, said: 'I would like to thank Trading Standards officers for uncovering these products. 

'The best way to protect ourselves and our communities from coronavirus is to continue to wash our hands regularly, keep socially distanced, wear a face mask where appropriate and get tested when we have symptoms.'

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