"Guerre des Masques"

The global coronavirus pandemic sparks a 'War for Masks' in a desperate global scramble for protection.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across Europe and the United States, a global scramble for medical equipment such as respirator masks and gloves is underway. Several countries have accused the United States of trying to hijack their orders, but the details of who may have done what to whom are still murky.

In France they are calling it the "guerre des masques" -- the war of the masks, and on Friday German officials also made allegations against the United States.

Andreas Geisel, a senior official in the state of Berlin, said that the US had committed an act of "modern piracy," alleging that a consignment of 200,000 respirator masks destined for the Berlin police had been diverted to the US while in transit in Bangkok.

"This is not how you deal with transatlantic partners," Geisel said, adding that "even in times of global crisis, no wild west methods should be used."

As stockpiles dwindle and countries embark on what one French official called a "global treasure hunt," governments are reluctant to allow protective and other equipment to leave their shores. Many governments say the prices being offered and demanded for personal protective equipment (PPE) are exorbitant.

On Friday, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said an order for ventilators that had already been paid for had been impounded in Turkey.

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