French officials accused on Thursday the US of “hijacking” a consignment of masks with their money, which was about to be dispatched from China to one of the worst-hit coronavirus areas of France.
The masks were on a plane at Shanghai airport that was ready to take off when unidentified Americans swoop in the last minute and offered three times what their French counterparts were paying to secure shipments.
Ile-de-France head, Valerie Pecresse accused the unidentified Americans of outbidding the French with cash at the last minute to secure shipments already promised to French buyers.
Moreover, Jean Rottner, a doctor and president of the GrandEst regional council, would not identify the buyers, but, she did reveal that a part of the order of several million masks heading for the country, where intensive care units are swamped with COVID-19 patients.
However, another French official who was also involved in procuring masks from China revealed that the group was acting for the US government.
US denies claims
A senior US official denied Thursday the allegations made by French politics, calling the stories “completely false.”
In Washington, a senior administration official who asked not to be named said in a press statement that the US government has not purchased any masks intended for delivery from China to France.
Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau commented on the reports and labeled them as “concerning” and asked ministers to examine similar claims to see if masks were being diverted away from his country.
He stressed in a press conference on the need to ensure that equipment that is destined for Canada gets to and stays in Canada.
Canada has designated Can$2 billion (US$1.4 billion) for the purchase of medical equipment.
“We understand that the needs in the US are very extensive, but it’s the same in Canada, so we have to work together to ensure that we can control the spread of this virus,” Trudeau concluded.
It is worth mentioning that the COVID-19 confirmed cases have exceeded on Thursday one million people worldwide, half of whom are in Europe.
The novel coronavirus has also claimed the lives of nearly 50,000 people, amid expectations that America will become the new epicenter of the epidemic.
More than 500,000 injuries were recorded in Europe, the most affected continent, at a time when the numbers are increasing in the United States (215,000).
According to White House estimates, COVID-19 could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 people in the United States.