The Trump administration Wednesday said it will crack down on exports of critical medical supplies, including N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and gloves needed to fight the coronavirus.
Customs and Border Protection, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will now detain exports of these scarce medical supplies at U.S. ports. CBP said the agencies will determine "whether to return the PPE (personal protection equipment) for use within the United States; to purchase the PPE on behalf of the United States; or, allow it to be exported."
The announcement essentially enforces the president's April 3 declaration allocating certain scarce medical material for domestic use only under the Defense Production Act.
The White House and FEMA have faced fierce criticism from some governors and others for not doing more, faster to get critical supplies into the hands of front-line medical workers.
In a statement, CBP said the agencies are "working together to prevent domestic brokers, distributors, and other intermediaries from diverting these critical medical resources overseas."
The White House weighed in as well.
"Today's order is another step in our ongoing fight to prevent hoarding, price gouging, and profiteering by preventing the harmful export of critically needed PPE," the statement said. "It will help ensure that needed PPE is kept in our country and gets to where it is needed to defeat the virus."
Last week, the president clarified that he will not prevent the sale of PPE to other countries with "long-term contracts," especially nations hit hard by the coronavirus.