The Covid-19 pandemic has been spreading across Europe and the United States and the global scramble for medical equipment and protective gears such as respirator, masks and gloves is now begun.
Many countries accused the U S A of trying to take away their orders, but the details of who may have done what to whom are still not clear.
In France they now call it the “guerre des masques” or the war of the masks, and Friday the officials in Germany also made allegations against the U S.
Andreas Geisel, who is a senior official in Berlin, said that the Trump administration had committed an act of “modern piracy,” he alleged that a consignment of 200,000 respirator masks destined for the Berlin police was diverted to the US when it was in transit in Bangkok.
Geisel said. “This is not how you deal with transatlantic partners, even in times of global crisis, no wild west methods should be used.”
A report from Germany stated that the company involved in Berlin’s order was US manufacturer 3M. However, 3M reported on Friday that the company “has no evidence to suggest 3M products have been seized. 3M has no record of the order of respirators from China for Berlin police.” Berlin police also told CNN that they could not confirm whether the order was placed with 3M or not.
Since the US government decided to invoke the Defense Production Act it has made life difficult for some suppliers who have foreign contracts. The 1950 law gave the government sweeping powers when there are emergencies to direct industrial production.
President Donald Trump criticized 3M for seeking to export protective equipment, in a tweet Thursday: “We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. ‘P Act’ all the way. Big surprise to many in the government, as to what they were doing – will have a big price to pay!”.
However, a senior White House official denied that the administration blocked 3M from sending shipments of respirators to Canada and Latin America.
Stockpiles are dwindling and countries are embarking on what a French official referred to as a “global treasure hunt,” governments starting to be reluctant to allow protective gears for healthcare workers and other medical equipment to leave their shores. Some governments say the prices that are being offered and demanded for the personal protective equipment (PPE) are huge.
The Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said on Friday, that there was an order for ventilators that had already been paid for and it was impounded in Turkey.
She also said, “There is a shipment of ventilators that for now are not going to leave Turkey because the Turkish government understands that it is a priority for the treatment of its patients in Turkey.”
González Laya added ” What they do guarantee is that, within a reasonable period of time, within a few weeks, they will make that material available to Spain again.”
The presidents of two regions in France have alleged that American customers had tried to pay Chinese suppliers three or four times the agreed price so they could get critical supplies diverted.
Renaud Renaud Muselier, the president of the Sud region, alleged in many interviews that an order he made from an unnamed French region was bought by Americans for cash, and the plane that planned to fly to France was diverted to the US.
Muselier was asked in an interview if masks had been taken by Americans at Chinese airport. He replied, “Exactly,” and also added, “There is a foreign country that paid three times the price of the cargo on the tarmac. So the masks are gone and the region that ordered them has been destitute.”
Jean Rottner, the president of another French region, Grand Est said “that it was a daily battle to secure orders. It’s true,” he claimed. He also alleged, that when flights were on the tarmac the Americans would arrive, take out cash and pay three or four times more for the orders he made, so it’s necessary to fight.”