A top White House trade adviser on Monday said China “vacuumed up” masks and other protective gear in the weeks between learning that a deadly virus had emerged in Wuhan and notifying the World Health Organization (WHO).
Peter Navarro, who serves as White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy director, also said China exported “low-quality” antibody tests as he accused the communist country of “profiteering” off the coronavirus pandemic.
“They hid it for six weeks,” Navarro said of China. “They could have contained it in Wuhan. They vacuumed up the world for personal protective equipment — over 2 billion masks — depriving public health care workers around the world from the defenses they need, and today China’s profiteering, basically, from this situation.”
On antibody tests — which show who has already had the virus and therefore cannot be reinfected, most physicians say — Navarro said China is providing faulty equipment.
“One of the things that’s on my radar that’s really troublesome is there’s a lot of these antibody tests coming in from China now that are low-quality, false readings and things like that, and we’ve got to be really careful,” Navarro said on “Fox & Friends.”
Most of the tests now on the market have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and many yield unreliable results.
Before the outbreak of the virus, China was making about half the world’s medical masks, some 20 million each day, Newsweek reported. “China’s mask industry has exploded in response to the pandemic, with producers in the nation now making more than 116 million every day,” the site says.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s tighter control over the production and distribution of masks has left some governments and firms unable to secure the equipment they need, according to multiple reports.”
Navarro said the U.S.-based 3M company, which has factories in China, saw those plants “nationalized, effectively” by the Chinese government.
Meanwhile, Forbes reports in a piece headlined “China Has ‘Nationalized’ Its N95 Mask Makers” that the move is “making it harder for buyers here to get their hands on a product that, once again, China dominates, says a big U.S. importer.”
“All of our orders, for millions of N95 masks, were canceled last week,” Leo Friedman, CEO of iPromo in Chicago, who has been importing tens of millions of masks all month, told Forbes. “They were for hospitals and state governments. We told them last week that we can’t get them.”
“Our China partners said they couldn’t get them to us because the government nationalized them a month ago,” Friedman says. “There are only a handful of N95 factories in China and now they are all enforcing the nationalization. They are busy with back orders to service Russian and European orders, I was told. This is the first time in my 20 years in business that I had to cancel orders and give money back.”
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