USA vs Europe – The War For Face Masks Get Ugly As The U.S. Accused Of Piracy & Paying 3 Times Cash

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Apr 05 2020
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As early as February 29, the U.S. Surgeon General told people to “stop buying masks” because the face masks were simply not effective in preventing them from catching the highly infectious Coronavirus. Vice President Mike Pence then told a press conference that there was no need for Americans to wear face masks to protect themselves from Covid-19.


Jerome M. Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, said in a tweet – “Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” If only he knew how soon he will have to eat humble pie.


Similarly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not recommend wearing masks – “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.”

Jerome M Adams - US Surgeon General

In fact, if you were to wear a face mask in the New York City, chances are you would get odd stares and funny looks – even humiliated – as if you were some sort of virus yourself. But in Hong Kong, almost everyone on the streets has been wearing a mask for as long as the Wuhan virus exploded. Unlike the U.S., the Hong Kong government and health experts recommend wearing masks.


The schools of thought in the U.S. and other western countries are different from that in Asia. The cultural norms also explain why in Japan, people wear masks for non-medical reasons – ranging from the hygiene to covering pimples to social anxiety to fashion. Of course, the SARS pandemic in 2003 also contributes to the widespread use of masks.


In general, governments and health experts in Asia argue that it’s “common sense” that wearing a mask would protect against infectious diseases like Coronavirus. The mask provides a barrier from respiratory droplets in case you’re standing in front of someone who is sick. After all, patients with Coronavirus normally have mild or even no symptoms.

Coronavirus - Taiwan Face Mask 2

Some researchers believe Covid-19 can also be transmitted when patients are asymptomatic – meaning patients can be contagious “silent carriers” but don’t know they’re sick. Hence, it’s puzzling that the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams hadn’t considered the factor of such silent carriers when he confidently insisted that people stop buying masks.


Yes, the United States was forced to make a humiliating U-turn when the U.S. Surgeon General who had initially begged the average Joe and Jane not to wear face masks has now  acknowledged that the U.S. guidance had changed – based on the awareness that the Coronavirus can be transmitted by asymptomatic people “coughing, sneezing or speaking”.


On April 3, President Trump announced that the CDC now recommends that the general population wear non-medical masks. Surprisingly, Trump said the guidance was “voluntary” and he himself won’t do it as it would not look right for him to wear one in the Oval Office. The U.S. has 300,106 confirmed Coronavirus cases with 8,141 deaths.

China Face Mask Production Factory

Dr. Robert Redfield, an American virologist and CDC director, said up to 25% of infected people may not show symptoms – suggesting why the Coronavirus continues to spread rapidly and exponentially across the country. But the biggest reason why the U.S. government was foolish enough not to adopt wearing of masks earlier could be due to a severe mask shortage.


Unlike Taiwan, South Korea or Singapore, the United States, with its 330 million people, has a national stockpile of only 12 million N95 masks and 30 million surgical masks. Now that the country has more than 200,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that over the next 18 months it aims to buy 500 million masks for the Strategic National Stockpile.


But now that the Trump administration has opened the floodgate with the recommendation to wear masks, the war for a limited supply of face masks in the world gets uglier and worse. Germany has accused the United States of using unfair means to obtain masks – even to the extent of calling America of “modern piracy” as both countries fought for the precious commodity.

Coronavirus - President Donald Trump - 3M Masks

Apparently, the Germany’s government was not impressed when a shipment of 200,000 face masks bound for the country was seized at Bangkok airport and diverted to the United States. The 200,000 FFP2 respirators, otherwise known as N95 masks, was ordered and manufactured by U.S. company 3M’s factory in Shanghai, China, and were part of a total order of 400,000 pieces.


While in transit in Thailand, German officials were shocked to discover that the U.S. officials had confiscated the shipment. Berlin Mayor Michael Müller said – “The action of the U.S. president is anything but one of solidarity or responsibility. It is inhuman and unacceptable. The federal government must insist to the U.S. that international rules are respected, including in times of the corona pandemic.”


Berlin Interior Minister Andreas Geisel, meanwhile, has labelled the unbelievable hijacking an act of “modern piracy.” He said – “Even in times of global crisis, methods from the Wild West should not become prevalent.” The confiscation of the shipment would be particularly embarrassing to German Chancellor Angela Merkel if she did not do something.

Coronavirus - German Chancellor Angela Merkel

As Coronavirus cases in Germany skyrockets to 92,150 with 1,330 deaths, the country’s Department of Defence similarly lost 6-million face masks – the same FFP2 respirators of N95 – during transit in Kenya about 2 weeks ago. The shipment was due in Germany on March 20 but never arrived and was believed to have been redirected illegally.


Interestingly, Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act, an executive order to 3M to make and prioritise orders of N95 masks for the federal government’s national stockpile. The president has even threatened that “3M will have a big price to pay” if the American company fails to ensure the masks it produces around the world comes back home to meet the demands.


Germany was not alone in the bully act of the U.S. On Thursday, American buyers splashed the cash and paid 3 times the going rate to wrest control of a consignment of masks as it was about to be dispatched from China to France. The ready-made masks were already loaded on a plane at Shanghai airport and was ready to take off when the U.S. buyers appeared on the tarmac with the cash.

USA vs Europe - Merkel, Macron and Trump

Jean Rottner, a doctor and president of the GrandEst regional council, said the several million masks ordered were for the intensive care units in the region. While France pays on delivery, the U.S. buyers just walked in with cash and did not even bother to inspect the goods – suggesting the intense battle between the U.S. and its long-time transatlantic allies for the face masks could get even uglier.


Of course, the U.S. has rejected as false all reports that it had bullied its way to grab masks. France has ordered 1 billion face masks due to be delivered within the next 14 weeks, of which a quarter is from China. But last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said the country needed to regain its “independence” in producing vital medical equipment, without relying excessively on imports.


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