Confiscated Supplies at Ports and Airports

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April 4, 2020 1:26 p.m.

Here’s something I’m looking for more information about. If you see published reports or know directly about instances, please email us. There have now been a number of reports of states or large institutional buyers purchasing PPE from abroad (mainly China) and then having the shipments confiscated by customs officials at US ports or airports. Again, not large Amazon orders, big, big governmental or institutional shipments.

The clearest explanations I’ve seen are that they are being confiscated by the federal government to be distributed or used according to national priorities. In itself, there’s a strong logic to that. The federal government really should be directing the global response. But that suggestion is at least in tension with the clearly stated goal and apparent practice of allowing private sector distributors to manage allocation through commercial transactions. And there should at least be some clarity or explanation of why this is happening and what plans or standards are being used for distribution.

One more point. We are definitely in the pandemic equivalent of the fog of war. People don’t know what’s happening; large institutions are directly accessing global markets for the first time; there’s confusion. I don’t think any reports can be taken at face value. But I’ve seen too many reports of this to think it’s merely confusion or a few one-offs.

If you see local press reports or if you have information yourself please let me know as soon as possible.

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