US blocks export of crucial N95 masks to Canada and Latin America

At a time when countries like Cuba and China are offering assistance and providing doctors and medical supplies to others, the US move is being criticized as self-centered

April 07, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch

The premier of Canada’s Ontario province, Doug Ford, alleged on April 6, Monday, that the United States government had prevented the delivery of three million N95 face masks, crucial in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

While speaking to Global News, Ford warned that if fresh supplies did not arrive on time, the current stock in the State would run out within a week.

As per the latest reports, prime minister Justin Trudeau’s intervention secured part of the delivery later on Monday. 500,000 of the masks were cleared by the US border security for delivery to Ontario.

US president Donald Trump had on April 3 asked US producers of medical supplies, particularly the Minnesota based 3M which produces the N95 masks, to give priority to domestic demand and to desist from supplying to Canada and Latin American countries. 3M has its production units in China and imports produced masks for supply to Canada and Latin America.   

Several allies of the US have been facing difficulties in securing essential medical supplies from US producers. Some countries have alleged that the US administration is indulging in tactics like outbidding or the forceful blocking of shipments to prevent or delay the supply of essential medical gear.

While the US has the maximum number of COVID-19 cases in the world currently, experts have argued that blocking medical supplies to other countries will be counterproductive in the larger global fight against the pandemic.

There are already more than 1.3 million people infected worldwide, with over 76,000 deaths recorded.

Even under the administration of former president Barack Obama, the US had used similar tactics to block the supply of essential medical items to other countries during the outbreak of H1N1 in 2009.

Meanwhile, millions of masks from China were independently shipped to Canada on Monday. These masks were ordered by the provincial governments of Quebec and Nova Scotia, Global News reported.

In Canada, there are more than 16,500 cases of infection, with 323 deaths, so far. As per estimates, the death toll in the country will be in the thousands by the end of this month.