The U.S. government encouraged American companies to send masks and personal protection equipment, or PPE, worth millions of dollars to China earlier this year, according to a Washington Post report Saturday.
The newspaper’s report said the White House was oblivious to the danger the coronavirus posed to the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The move, the newspaper said, “underscores the Trump administration’s failure to recognize and prepare for the growing pandemic threat.”
The Post said its findings are based on a “review of economic data and internal government documents.”
The newspaper said an analysis of the value of the masks and other items sent to China in January and February showed it grew by more than 1,000 percent in comparison to the same time last year, jumping from $1.4 million to approximately $17.6 million. There was also three-digit inflation for the shipments of ventilators and protective garments.
“People right now, as we speak, are dying because there have been inadequate supplies of PPE,” Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat from Texas, told the Post.
In early February, the U.S. State Department announced it had shipped more than 17 tons of donated medical supplies to China that front-line U.S. medical workers are now requesting as they battle COVID-19 disease, including masks, gowns, respirators and more, the Post reported.
In late February, when the Chinese death toll had reached nearly 3,000, the U.S. Commerce Department published a flyer telling U.S. companies how to sell “critical medical products” to China and Hong Kong. The quick selling process was shut down March 4 as the pandemic continued to grow, according to the Post.
The newspaper account said “some White House officials” believe China deliberately played down the seriousness of the outbreak because it wanted to “corner the market” on masks and PPE.
The Post report says, however, that the U.S. is facing “severe shortages” of testing kits and PPE, forcing doctors and nurses “to resort to makeshift gear” that increases their odds of exposure to the virus.
China has denied hoarding equipment. The Post reports that China “has provided 120 countries and four international organizations with surgical masks and other forms of equipment.”