In the wake of the New York State posting its highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day (562), the United States – the current epicentre of the pandemic – have issued a slew of measures to curb further spread of the virus that has claimed over 7,000 American lives.
Citing the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US President Donald Trump urged people to cover their faces with scarves or homemade cloth masks while going outside, and encouraged all to save medical-grade or surgical-grade masks for the healthcare workers who are on the frontlines in the fight against coronavirus.
The call came amidst growing criticism that the US government was not doing enough to protect the healthcare workers. Many had taken to social media to point out that even basic protective gear, including masks, were not made available to them.
The shortage of masks is real and it is being felt by countries across the world. China, the largest producer of masks, have been hoarding them of late (selling only to the highest bidder, according to some reports), to mitigate the threat that coronavirus, which originated here in Wuhan late last year, pose.
Many countries, including the US, have had to redeploy several establishments to the production of masks and other safety gear to keep up with the demand and even then, most are failing. Some others have resorted to unfair ways: methods from the Wild West, a modern-day piracy, according to German State Minister Andreas Geisel.
Accusations are flying, most of them aimed at the United States.
Recently, Geisel accused Washington of diverting a delivery of Chinese-made face masks bound for Germany at a Bangkok airport.
In a statement, Geisel, 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.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn, though admittedly unaware of the Bangkok incident, told a press conference that reports of this kind had been coming in and “are generally not a good development.”
French officials too have heaped blame on the US saying that the Trump-administration had swooped on Chinese masks ordered by France, apparently outbidding them on a shipment that had already been lined up.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked officials to look into similar claims that masks were being diverted from his country, calling such reports "concerning."
The US have refuted all allegations.
The deadly coronavirus has so far claimed nearly 60,000 lives and infected over a million people across the world.