Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that two planes sent to pick up medical supplies in China were forced to return empty.
“Unfortunately, the planes had to take off in this situation without receiving their cargo deliveries,” Trudeau said at a press conference. “We have been fighting in a very competitive international environment where everyone is looking for” personal protective equipment.
Trudeau said that buyers of PPE and other medical equipment must contend with difficult conditions on the ground in China. These include “severe restrictions” on the amount of time planes can spend grounded and vehicle-supply lines that are “difficult and interrupted by checkpoints and quarantine measures.”
High demand for medical supplies throughout the world has put enormous pressure on competing buyers and has forced government officials to find creative solutions to obtain equipment. Maryland governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, managed to obtain thousands of coronavirus test kits for his state from South Korean labs, in a deal facilitated by his wife, Yumi, who is of South Korean descent.
“It should not have been this difficult” to obtain the test kits, Hogan told the New York Times.
U.S. officials have lamented the country’s dependence on various Chinese supply chains for vital supplies amid the pandemic.
“It is the cruelest irony that this nation is now dependent on China for many of these products,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said at the beginning of April. “Gowns and gloves are not complicated components to manufacture.”