The United States will seize exports of key protective medical gear until it determines whether the equipment should be kept in the country to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, two federal agencies announced on Wednesday.
However, in the midst of this declaration, medical supplies purchased by the Cayman Health Services Authority, have been confiscated by the US government, Premier Alden McLaughlin confirmed.
The supplies were already loaded on a container and aboard a ship ready to depart when the vessel was stopped and items removed by US authorities, he said.
On Tuesday, the US authorities removed from a ship that was coming to Cayman a container which contained four ventilators, 50,000 masks and various other bits and pieces,” McLaughlin said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing.
“That has been a huge disappointment to us. All of those were things that were procured and purchased in the US,” he said.
The US manufacturing company 3M Co, a leading producer of the masks worldwide, said on Monday that it had reached a deal with the Trump administration that would allow it to continue to export the masks to Canada and Latin America despite the new restrictions. The company had said days earlier that ceasing exports to those regions would have “humanitarian implications.”
A federal regulation that outlines FEMA’s procedures for seizing and vetting the exports will go into effect on Friday and remain in place until Aug 10th, according to a draft version posted online.
According to international reports, five other countries, including Canada, Germany and Barbados, have also had their medical supplies blocked.
McLaughlin said everything will be done to get the supplies that have been seized returned as soon as possible.
“We are working through various diplomatic channels on it. There seems to be a policy now to prevent the shipment out of the US of certain key pieces of equipment. Personal protective equipment and ventilators are in quite short supply in a number of the US states that have been harder hit,” McLaughlin said.
The United Nations has established a COVID-19 supply-chain taskforce to address issues surrounding medical supplies.
World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking at Wednesday’s WHO briefing, welcomed the creation of the taskforce.
“We’re working hard to ensure supplies of essential medical equipment for front-line health workers,” he said.