"We, together with the Health Emergency Situations Center's team, have asked the Prosecutor General's Office to launch legal proceedings with the aim to identify the causes of this shortage and those responsible for it," he told a news conference.

The missing PPE are part of a 24-million-euro order from China, according to the minister.

"Almost 850,000 items – goggles, medical caps and masks, and disposable gowns and gloves – are missing," he said, adding this is an amount equivalent to around 20 railroad cars.

According to Jurgita Grebenkoviene, the chancellor of the Health Ministry, the PPE delivery was organized by the Transport Ministry which had to distribute the goods to healthcare establishments. The latter had to submit delivery and acceptance certificates to the Health Emergency Situations Center.

It was the center's staff who discovered the discrepancy between the quantity of goods in the contract and that in the certificates, the official said.