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Trump Policy Blocks Face Masks, Ventilators & Other PPEs From Being Shipped To The Caribbean
As countries around the world grapple with combatting the outbreak of COVID-19, smaller Caribbean countries are struggling to protect their residents against the virus.
And while other countries have looked to acquire much-needed protective gear from the United States, Caribbean nations fighting to save lives are unable to do so.
A spokesperson from U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Miami Herald in a statement that the agency is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to prevent distributors from diverting personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks and gloves, and ventilators overseas.
“To accomplish this, CBP will detain shipments of the PPE specified in the President’s Memorandum while FEMA determines whether to return the PPE for use within the United States; to purchase the PPE on behalf of the United States; or, allow it to be exported,” the statement reads.
Officials from at least three Caribbean nations, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Barbados say container loads of PPE purchased from U.S. vendors blocked by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“We are talking about personal protective equipment; we’re talking about durable medical devices and gloves, gowns, ventilators as well,” said Bahamas Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands.
Trump Administration Policy Stops Shipments To The Caribbean
President Donald Trump signed an act known as the Defense Production Act on April 3 that gave the federal government more control over the procurement of coronavirus-related supplies. The order also gave the administration authority to ban certain exports.
After the president’s order, the Caribbean governments learned that shipments of the critical supplies were blocked.
In Barbados, Health Minister Lt. Col Jeffrey Bostic said a shipment of 20 ventilators purchased by a philanthropist was barred.
Meanwhile, Cayman Islands officials said it was eight ventilators and 50,000 masks that were produced and purchased in the U.S. and removed from a Grand Cayman-bound ship in Miami.
During a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House, President Trump acknowledged that there is a high demand for equipment from the United States.
“We’re the envy of the world in terms of ventilators. Germany would like some, France would like some; we’re going to help countries out. Spain needs them desperately. Italy needs them desperately,” he said.
But when he was asked by a reporter about the Caribbean and the accusation that the U.S. was blocking supplies, Trump said it was an effort to halt drug trafficking.
“Well, what we’re doing, we have a tremendous force out there, a Naval force, and we’re blocking the shipment of drugs,” he said. “So maybe what they’re doing is stopping ships that they want to look at. We’re not blocking.”