The US Begs South Korea for Supply of Testing Kits and Other Medical Equipment to Fight COVID-19

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The US has been approaching and begging her Asian Partners and European Allies for help in obtaining medical supplies to overcome critical shortages in its fight against coronavirus.

The private appeal by President Donald Trump was revealed after his public rhetoric and boast on the sufficiency of domestic response.

“We should never be reliant on a foreign country for the means of our own survival,” Trump said at a White House briefing on Tuesday evening. “America will never be a supplicant nation.”

Trump also boasted on Tuesday that the country had performed more tests in eight days than South Korea had managed in eight weeks. As of last week, South Korea had tested 270,000 people (one in 190 of the population) since the beginning of the outbreak while the US has performed 266,000 tests (one in 1,230) in the past eight days Seoul also started testing much earlier in the country’s outbreak.

However, behind the scenes, Trump’s administration has approached European and Asian partners to secure supplies of testing kits and other medical equipment that are in desperately short supply in the US.

Trump spoke with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, on Tuesday, making urgent request if his country could supply medical equipment to the United States. This was revealed from Blue House, the South Korean Presidency.

In the telephone appeal, Trump praised the South Korean testing programme, which has helped contain the outbreak there. Moon told Trump that he would support South Korean exports of critical supplies to the US “if there is a domestic surplus”.

“Depending on critical needs, the United States could seek to purchase many of these items in the hundreds of millions with purchases of higher-end equipment such as ventilators in the hundreds of thousands,” an email sent to embassies in Europe and Eurasia said.

Related news on 15 March says German officials had fended off a Trump Administration’s offer to buy exclusive access to a potential vaccine being developed by a German company, CureVac.

Again on March 18, the Defense military news site reported that the US air force had quietly flown half a million nasal swabs from Italy to Memphis, where they were distributed around the country.

Globally, some of the critical components of the diagnostic test are in short supply, including the reagents needed to identify the presence of the Covid-19 virus, and nasal swabs used for taking the samples.

The shortages will constrain not only the US but other nation’s abilities to carry out mass testing in the near term. With the short supply, medical experts have been urging that tests are restricted to patients who have already been hospitalized.

It will not be soon forgotten that Trump has been demanding South Korea to pay much more, reportedly up to $5 bn a year, to cover the costs of US troops based on its soil and the US military has threatened to lay off thousands of Korean employees if Seoul does not agree to a deal. Would have South Korea forgotten that so soon?

China is not as benevolence as South Korea. The US is by far the largest buyer of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies from China and is seeking to import Chinese face masks and protective gear, but negotiations have been complicated by growing acrimony between the two countries, over what Trump has insisted until very recently on calling the “China virus”.

Severe disruptions in international air links caused by the outbreak have also disrupted US imports. This is happening, and Trump was contemplating reopening activities soon in America.

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