Canada’s Province of Ontario Angry at “Unacceptable” US Decision to Block Face Masks

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, complained Monday that the United States has blocked the export of more than 3 million face masks purchased to fight the coronavirus epidemic, while Ottawa said it was pressuring Washington to release the equipment.

Man wears mask while walking along Don Mills Road as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to rise in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on April 6, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Osorio

The province purchased two orders for nearly 4 million medical masks from manufacturer 3M Co’s (MMM.N) in South Dakota, and a batch of nearly $ 3 million has been arrested, Premier Doug Ford told reporters. Speaking to Global News, he called the incident “absolutely unacceptable.”

Ford, a populist conservative, said after the Ontario and Canadian governments complained, he was assured that 500,000 of the masks would be released soon.

President Donald Trump signed an order last week to prevent the export of personal protective equipment, and Ford said it was “absolutely essential” that Canada be exempt.

Ford said it would call the US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, to insist.

Ontario, which has the second highest number of coronavirus cases among the 10 provinces, will be out of personal protective equipment in a week, Ford said. About 14 million people live in Ontario, more than a third of Canada’s population.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne on Monday and “reiterated the desire of the United States” to work with Canada to ensure the sustainability of the channels international supply of medical supplies and personnel, said a spokeswoman for Pompeo.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters that “we are working intensively with the United States to ensure that all masks purchased can be exported to Canada.”

Allies in the United States have complained about what they call its “Wild West” tactics by overbidding or blocking shipments to buyers who have already signed deals for medical equipment.

The Canadian death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, had increased to 340 at 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) Monday, against 258 Sunday, according to a count of provincial announcements compiled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The number of cases increased to 16,568 instead of 14,426.

Sign of the economic challenge, authorities said that a total of 3.18 million people in Canada had filed for unemployment since March 16, including for an emergency benefit that was launched on Monday.

Industry groups and tenants have said landlords should prepare for rent strikes in May unless the government steps in with rent subsidies for occupants as the epidemic decimates wages.

David Ljunggren’s report; Additional reports by Amran Abocar, Moira Warburton and Denise Paglinawan in Toronto and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Paul Simao and Peter Cooney

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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