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Items which normally have a value measured in cents now apparently have value to criminals. Hospitals across Germany have reported thefts of protective gear.
Thieves stole almost 50,000 protective face masks intended for medical clinics in Cologne.
Police said thieves took the masks from the logistics center for the City of Cologne's clinics. An employee noticed the theft on Monday morning and informed the authorities.
Following the theft, the city's crisis management team moved to secure and check all stocks of urgently needed protective equipment for clinics and emergency services.
"This is a new quality of theft", a hospital spokeswoman told the news agency DPA. "We're talking about items that normally have a value measured in cents, but apparently there's a market for them now."
The spokeswoman said that despite the theft, they were not expecting imminent shortages in the city's hospitals.
Read more: What you need to know about the coronavirus
Cancer ward struck
Police in Germany have reported various thefts related to the coronavirus outbreak.
In Lower Saxony earlier in March, police were investigating the theft of 1,200 face masks. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the state where Cologne is located, hospitals reported the theft of hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer, which are now in short supply.
In Berlin, large quantities of disinfectants, respirators, gloves and protective clothing were stolen from the children's intensive care unit of the Virchow Clinic of the Charité, which looks after many young cancer patients, broadcaster RBB reported.
The hospital was reportedly running short on masks after thieves struck a delivery truck headed for the hospital.