People thought Covid-19 has united the whole world, erasing borders and frictions. Indeed people – medical personnel, scientists, journalists and administrators across countries joined hands in educating and mobilizing people to face the calamity. But US acted erratically, promoted anti-China tirade and calumny, called it Chinese virus or Wuhan virus, despite WHO’s explicit appeal not call it that way.

China has gone out of the way to supply millions of masks, thousands of ventilators etc to US and Europe, despite the bad blood caused by US and the West. 

But alas, the leopard did not change its spots : Going against the people’s aspirations for peace and good health, the US State led by Trump came out with its hegemonism, racism, and all its ugly features, even as its own people faced one of the worst calamities, lakhs of deaths, many of them avoidable, awaiting them.

White House experts, and Trump, are anticipating 1 to 2.4 lakh deaths, next week being a nightmare. 

More than three (3.36) lakh people tested positive in US, and deaths are reaching 10000 as on April 5. New York alone had 1.23 lakh cases and 4100 deaths.    

US hijacking mask shipments in rush for coronavirus protection  is the title of a report in UK magazine, theguardian , Fri 3 Apr 2020.

US buyers waving wads of cash managed to wrest control of a consignment of masks as it was about to be dispatched from China to one of the worst-hit coronavirus areas of France, according to two French officials. The masks were on a plane at Shanghai airport that was ready to take off when the US buyers turned up and offered three times what their French counterparts were paying.

Another French official also involved in procuring masks from China said the group were acting for the US government.

“Today the US sent 23 of their biggest cargo planes to China to pick up the material they had acquired. Many of our purchases, which we had hoped to confirm in order to supply [our health system], fell through,” he said.

Jean Rottner, a doctor and president of the GrandEst regional council, said part of the order of several million masks heading for the region, where intensive care units are inundated with Covid-19 patients, had been lost to the buyers.

“On the tarmac, they arrive, get the cash out … so we really have to fight,” he told RTL radio.

Rottner would not identify the buyers, who they were working for or which US state the cargo was flown to, but another French official also involved in procuring masks from China said the group were acting for the US government.

 “Today the US sent 23 of their biggest cargo planes to China to pick up the material they had acquired. Many of our purchases, which we had hoped to confirm in order to supply [our health system], fell through,” he said. “The whole world wants [these things] too. There is a problem of hyper-demand.”

As the pandemic worsens, panicked governments have been accused of using questionable methods to acquire supplies in the battle against the coronavirus. Tactics have ranged from blocking exports of medical supplies to sending spies on clandestine missions to find tests.

Fearing shortages and a strain on their health systems, a number of states, including France, Germany and Russia, have taken measures such as stockpiling masks and hazardous materials, or hazmat suits. This has meant limiting exports of protective medical equipment.

China has, however, since been one of the few countries to go the other way, selling or donating millions of masks to Europe. One such shipment bound for Italy went through the Czech Republic, where it was seized by authorities under disputed circumstances.

Fears of shortages are driving many countries to take increasingly devious measures to secure masks and tests, the report said.

“Modern-day piracy” by US, says Germany

The US diverted a delivery of Chinese-made face masks bound for Germany at a Bangkok airport, (freemalaysiatoday.com reported)

a Berlin city official said Friday, accusing Washington of “modern-day piracy” as competition for protective gear against the coronavirus heats up.

In a statement Berlin’s state minister of the interior, Andreas Geisel, said 200,000 highly sought-after FFP2 masks, made by an American firm in China and destined for use by Berlin police, were “confiscated” in Bangkok.

President Trump, after a late start in procuring urgently needed protective gear, has in recent days invoked the Defense Production Act to get US firms to divert their resources to the battle against the pandemic.

According to German newspaper Bild, the hijacked shipment contained masks made in China by US firm 3M, one of the leading brands in the sector, that were then diverted to the US. Local official Geisel was more blunt, blasting the US for resorting to “methods from the Wild West”.

He urged the German government to remind Washington to “comply with international rules”.

French officials have also complained this week that Americans had swooped on Chinese masks ordered by France, after apparently outbidding them on a shipment that had already been lined up.

washingtonpost, April 5, 2020 reported with this title : 

White House scrambles to scoop up medical supplies worldwide, angering Canada, Germany.

It said : The Trump administration’s global scramble to secure more protective masks for U.S. health-care workers has sparked tensions with allies including Canada and Germany, which fear they could face shortages as they battle their own coronavirus outbreaks.

The White House late Thursday ordered Minnesota mask manufacturer 3M (producing in its China factory) to prioritize U.S. orders over foreign demand, using its authority under the Defense Production Act, or DPA, to try to ease critical shortages of N95 masks at U.S. hospitals.

The Trump administration has asked 3M to stop exporting the masks to Canada and Latin America, and to import more from 3M’s factories in China, the company said Friday.

CNN reported it with the title :

Coronavirus sparks a ‘war for masks’ as accusations fly

(CNN) As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across Europe and the United States, a global scramble for protective equipment such as masks and gloves is underway. In France they are calling it the “guerre des masques” — the war of the masks.

Some French officials have even alleged that their consignments from China have been hijacked by Americans.

The presidents of two regions in France have claimed that American customers — without specifying who — have tried to pay Chinese suppliers three or four times the agreed price to get critical supplies diverted.

Renaud Muselier, president of the Sud region, alleged in several interviews that an order from one French region had been bought by the Americans for cash — and the plane that was due to fly to France had instead gone to the US.

Muselier was asked by CNN affiliate BFM-TV whether masks had been taken by Americans at Chinese airports. He replied: “Exactly,” before adding, “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.”

Muselier later tweeted that masks for his own region were on their way and had “not been bought by a foreign power.”

Contacted by CNN, Muselier referred further questions to the French Foreign Ministry, which said Thursday it was looking into the reports.

Jean Rottner, the president of another French region — Grand Est — echoed Muselier’s remarks, telling French radio network RTL that it was a daily battle to secure orders.

“It’s true,” he claimed, “that on the tarmac the Americans arrive, take out cash and pay three or four times more for the orders we have made, so it’s necessary to fight.”

Rottner tweeted that 2 million masks had arrived on April 1 from Shanghai, posting video of the cargo being shipped on his Twitter account. Two more shipments are due to arrive at the weekend, he said.

Contacted by CNN, Rottner’s office would not elaborate on his claims, but a third regional president, Valérie Pécresse of Île-de-France, said the quest for masks was a global treasure hunt.

“We had made an order but were unable to complete it because others were ready to pay three times the market price,” Pecresse told radio network Franceinfo. She did not identify the “others.”

It’s unclear which US entity — federal, state or commercial — might have tried to secure orders destined for France.

CNN reached out to the US Department of Health and Social Services Thursday but has not heard back.

The US Embassy in France, which only speaks for the federal government, said the US “has not purchased any masks intended for delivery from China to France.”

In an interview with French television Thursday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said securing deliveries was “not always easy.”

The problem, he said, was “not logistical difficulties related to missing aircraft but difficulties sometimes in accessing the products from orders that are not always delivered. This is for a variety of reasons, including the huge demand that comes to China from the United States, from Europe, and indeed from the whole world.”

CNN has submitted several questions to the Prime Minister’s office about problems with deliveries.

On Friday, the German Health Minister Jens Spahn responded to media reports that a PPE consignment bought by the state of Berlin had been diverted to meet an American order. “Reports of this kind — I don’t know if it is true in this specific case — but it is not the only report of this kind,” Spahn said.

“This is not a good development in general, but at the same time it is due to a very strong demand that is there.”

Spanish and French officials say that logistical bottlenecks in China have compounded the problem of shipping personal protective equipment (PPE.)

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa told a parliamentary committee in Madrid last week that everyone was trying to buy from China — but could not confirm when Spanish orders would be met “because the market is crazy and the logistics are hard.”

One French region, Centre Val de Loire, told CNN its order had been diverted to Zhengzhou airport due to congestion at Shanghai airport.

Prices spiral

In the meantime, several governments are requisitioning what they can. Last month the French government said it was seizing all masks being made in the country.

One French company, Valmy SAS, was obliged to divert an order for PPE from the UK’s National Health Service, a regular customer. A representative of the company in the UK told CNN that the order had been blocked by customs officials at the French coast.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned for several weeks that hoarding and shortages of protective equipment is leaving doctors and nurses “dangerously ill equipped” to look after Covid-19 patients.

A month ago, its director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “prices of surgical masks have increased six-fold, N95 respirators have more than tripled, and gowns cost twice as much.”

“Supplies can take months to deliver, market manipulation is widespread, and stocks are often sold to the highest bidder,” he said.

And demand has only multiplied since.

Several European governments have sounded the alarm about the difficulty of obtaining protective equipment for health workers. In Germany, the Bavarian state premier Markus Söder said Thursday that Germany would need “billions of masks” to fight coronavirus.

Spahn has said he wants Germany to become less dependent on masks made elsewhere. “We must become more independent of the world market, for the security of our citizens. That is one of the lessons of these weeks,” he said on Twitter.

In Spain, labor unions have complained about a lack of protective equipment for health workers.

Last week Fernando Simon, director of the Center for Coordination of Emergencies and Health Alerts, said that “Although access to personal protective equipment is proving sufficient, it is true that at some points there may be critical moments.” PPE, he said, was a scarce global commodity and there was no easy availability.

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said last week: “Not enough masks for the global market are being produced; not enough ventilators are being produced.” Illa said. He was also critical of delays in a joint European Union program to buy PPE.

Several French regions told CNN that they’d had problems securing supplies. Bourgogne Franche Comté has ordered 4 million masks but are using two different suppliers in case one fails to deliver.

In the United States, a congressional source told CNN on Wednesday they’d been informed that the coronavirus task force — led by Vice President Mike Pence — was stopping overseas shipments of the medical equipment and instead asking that the supplies be distributed within the United States.

France, Spain, Germany and the UK are all trying to accelerate domestic production of PPE as scarcities bite. But that’s not something that can happen overnight in the volumes now needed as coronavirus stretches hospital resources across the world.

(Mia Alberti in Lisbon, and CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin and Max Ramsay in London contributed to this report.)

A question was raised on this sordid episode:

After all, the manufacturer, US firm 3M, one of the leading brands in the sector, was a US company. US has no right to take its production?  

The MNC was producing not in USA but in China, and are obliged to fulfill orders placed by customers on a first-come-first basis…they are bound by rules and conditions, often framed by US and West as part of globalization…

US probably can order, under its Defense Production Act , that the US MNC must give priority to US.

But that can be only prospectively. It would not be legal for US to hijack stocks, booked and paid for by others, and being dispatched to others…US action , seizing the goods on the tarmac of a foreign soil, is part of its hegemony, and wont be acceptable….

Given globalization and agreements and conventions, among G-8, the MNC operating in a foreign land need not necessarily oblige. 

US imports most its requirements from around the world, also presently to tackle Covid-19. If this logic is applied, the others can obstruct even consignments already booked, and divert them as they wished.

China goes out of the way to supply crucial materials.

China was hard pressed with Covid-19. New cases reappeared, and another bout is feared. In spite of that China had exported in recent weeks lakhs of masks, and other medical supplies to many countries in the West, and to USA. China and its companies also made donations to some, despite their own problems, and fears of corona re-appearing after a gap.

US in desperate need of supplies from China changed tune. On April fools Day, Wednesday, Mr. Trump was effusive in describing his relationship with President Xi Jinping of China, whom he spoke with last week.

See this report from nytimes.com April 2, 2020 :  

In Sudden Shift, U.S. and China Seek to Cooperate

Several of President Trump’s top aides are advising him to work with China on the coronavirus pandemic, but national security officials are skeptical the truce will hold.

WASHINGTON — For weeks, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo forcefully used the controversial terms“Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” in public and said they intended to hold Beijing responsible for the crippling coronavirus pandemic.

Now, they have avoided using those phrases, and the administration is welcoming planeloads of medical equipment from China.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump was effusive in describing his relationship with President Xi Jinping of China, whom he spoke with last week.

“The relationship with China is a good one, and my relationship with him is really good,” Mr. Trump told reporters. The president added that he “will always assume the best” of China’s leaders. Asked whether American intelligence agencies have assessed that China falsified case and fatality numbers over the virus, Mr. Trump said, “I’m not an accountant from China.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/us/politics/coronavirus-trump-china.html

Photo By AP 2 Apr 20200

The New England Patriots’ private team plane is returning to Boston from China carrying more than one million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus.

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker found himself in need of an assist to help the state fight the coronavirus pandemic. He called on the New England Patriots.

The team’s private plane was on schedule to return to Boston from China on Thursday evening carrying more than one million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the virus..

Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers but had no way of getting them to the U.S. He reached out to Patriots team owner Robert Kraft, who loaned the Boeing 767 painted in the team’s colors and logo that is usually used to carry the team to and from NFL games.

Baker confirmed the joint venture in a news conference Thursday.

Chinese technology company Tencent was a huge help in the process, Nolan said. It agreed to gather the masks, got them through the inspection process, stayed with them to ensure their security and eventually their movement on to the Patriots’ plane.

“This isn’t in their wheelhouse, but they thought it was the right thing to do,” Nolan said.

There were hurdles that included legal logistics that were only cleared thanks to cooperation involving multiple state, U.S. and international entities.

There was little margin for error once the airplane arrived in China, which granted the Patriots three hours to fill the plane with the masks. They were on the ground for 2 hours, 57 minutes according to flight tracker data Nolan monitored.

Tencent looked after approximately 1.7 million masks. The Patriots’ plane took on 1.2 million, Nolan said.

They are working with Tencent to bring additional equipment back from China via a cargo plane

The masks will be going into Massachusetts’ stockpile for distribution to medical personnel.

Nolan said 300,000 of the masks will also be going to New York to help medical personnel there. Baker said Rhode Island will also receive some of the masks.


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