U.S. blocks export of ‘tens of thousands’ of COVID-19 medical supplies

U.S. blocks export of ‘tens of thousands’ of COVID-19 medical supplies
Former Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands

Health minister says country has “ample supply”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Health minister Dr Duane Sands confirmed the country has been significantly hit by U.S. restrictions banning the export of COVID-19 protective gear, noting the procurement of “many, many thousands” of critical supplies has been blocked.

However, Sands told Eyewitness News the government did not put all of its “eggs in one basket” as the country has sourced supplies from various countries.

“We expect a shipment today,” Sands said.

“We have had multiple different sources of procurement, so a shipment comes in today, some tomorrow, some Monday, some Tuesday. Some coming directly from China, some from South America.

He continued: “Our strategy has always been to make sure we were not reliant on any single vendor and it turns out that that approach will save us. We have more than an ample supply in hand right now for the foreseeable future and I hope that that continues.”

American president Donald Trump invoked special powers last Friday banning the export of coronavirus protection gear.

The decree has reportedly blocked local shipping companies, like Betty K, from bringing in medical supplies.

According to a Tribune article, the company saw a shipment of three containers of medical supplies blocked by US Coast Guard officials.

The health minister said impacted shipments included “all of the above, many of the things required to a COVID response, ventilators, testing supplies, personal protective equipment, masks etc.

“We believe that with the relationship that we enjoy with the United Stats that this is a matter that will likely be resolved. But it is an issue right now.”

Sands said the government has been working closely with the embassy in Nassau to resolve issues.

“There was a presidential decree on April 3 that invoked special powers and determined certain things in the interest of the US and that has created challenges with procurement of certain items,” Sands said.

“Let me say that the American embassy in The Bahamas has been working tirelessly with us to resolve these issues against the backdrop of that proclamation or declaration. I can’t say the problem has been resolved but we are working on getting this resolved.

While there was no immediate challenge, Sands stressed “every single item counts” due to the anticipated burn rate of protective gear across government agencies.

“We have not put all of our eggs in one basket and I think that strategy has served us well. But in this era, every single item counts, so we can’t afford to be without anything particularly with the anticipated burn rate of PPE across government agencies and particularly in the healthcare sector.

“We are very mindful of this,” he said, “we have accepted donations from other countries and we will continue to source from other country’s even as we try to resolve this matter with the United States.

“We got 150,000 masks on Monday. But the burn rate is incredible. We expect another 150,000 today or tomorrow. We expect another half a million masks next week. The goal is to make sure that when someone reaches out their hand and say I need (it’s there).

He added: “This was a big deal, this wasn’t no little problem, this is a big deal.”