Wed | Jul 8, 2020

Competition for supplies sharpening as pandemic worsens

Published:Saturday | April 4, 2020 | 11:43 AM
People and policemen bow their heads during a national moment of mourning for victims of coronavirus in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Saturday, April 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

NEW YORK (AP) — Scarce supplies of medical equipment are leading to growing competition within the US and among nations, in what one French politician called a “worldwide treasure hunt.”

The governor of New York state, the epicentre of the US outbreak, vowed to seize unused ventilators from private hospitals and companies, while President Donald Trump said he was preventing the export of N95 respirator masks and surgical gloves, a move he said was necessary to ensure that medical supplies are available in the US.

The number of people infected in the US exceeded a quarter-million, and the death toll climbed past 7,000, with New York state alone accounting for more than 2,900 dead, an increase of over 560 in just one day.

Most of the dead are in New York City, where hospitals are swamped with patients.

Worldwide, confirmed infections rose past 1 million and deaths topped 58,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

A more immediate concern was the shortage of masks and gloves, leading to fierce competition among buyers from Europe, the US and elsewhere and aggressive measures such as New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to take ventilators that aren’t being used.

 Cuomo says New York, the nation’s worst hot spot, could run out of ventilators next week.

“If they want to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me,” Cuomo said. He promised to eventually return the equipment or compensate the owners.

Worldwide shortages have caused health care workers to fall sick and forced doctors in Europe to make life-or-death decisions about which patients get a breathing machine.

The search for supplies and bidding wars among buyers have created what Valerie Pecresse, president of France’s battered Île-de-France region, called a “worldwide treasure hunt.”

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