Swedish IKEA store finds 50,000 forgotten face masks, gives them to local hospital

People in the street are seen from inside an IKEA kitchen showroom and planning studio in the centre of Stockholm, Sweden November 25, 2019. Picture taken November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Anna Ringstrom

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Staff at an IKEA furniture store on Sweden’s west coast stumbled across a pile of around 50,000 face masks gathering dust in a warehouse and donated them to a nearby hospital this weekend.

Johan Andersson, the store’s logistics boss whose team found them, had just read that hospitals were suffering from a shortage of masks amid the coronavirus outbreak so he rang up Sahlgrenska University Hospital - Sweden’s biggest - in Gothenburg and asked if they were interested.

“They were over the moon and said ‘what! Wow! Just come!’.

“The masks didn’t fit into my car so I had to use a company van and then load it up to the roof. It was jam-packed.”

The store’s management agreed without hesitation to donate the masks, which were bought during the latest bird flu outbreak and then forgotten about, for the benefit of people that needed them more.

“It feels great, in these times, when you read about so much unpleasantness with corona(virus) and all that, that we can show some solidarity. It think it’s important to do that,” he said.

“We’re just happy to have been able to contribute something.”

Sweden has 1,167 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the health agency’s latest official count, and seven deaths.

As in many other countries hit by the coronavirus, the Swedish healthcare system is at risk of running short of certain medical supplies.

Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Kirsten Donovan