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PM and Dominic Raab warn against ‘damaging protectionism’ amid Donald Trump's face mask row

Dominic Raab warned the US against 'protectionism' amid a row over PPE shipments (PA)

2 min read

The Foreign Secretary said countries risked “compounding the harm of COVID-19” with protectionism after the US was accused of intercepting face mask shipments.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Raab said: “The Prime Minister, Trade Secretary and I are pressing the G7 and G20 groups of major economies to keep trade routes open - and avoid compounding the harm of COVID-19 with damaging protectionism.

“Team-work is essential to beating coronavirus.

"The Prime Minister is determined to unite the country behind the national mission at home, and bring countries together abroad - so we rise to a global challenge that threatens us all.”

His comments come after a German-bound consignment of 200,000 face masks was “confiscated” in Bangkok in what Berlin officials called an act of “modern piracy”.

According to the country's interior minister Andreas Geisel, the goods were likely diverted back to the US.

Under a Korean-War-era law invoked by Donald Trump, American companies such as 3M, which made the masks, are required to provide more medical supplies to meet domestic demand.

Opinions are divided on the benefits of covering your face to slow the spread of the virus.

The UK’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam said there was "no evidence" that it prevented people from catching coronavirus. 

But the World Health Organisation is reportedly considering changing its guidance on wearing masks in public in light of new evidence. 

Concerns have been raised that the current shortage of PPE for medical workers could be exacerbated if public demand increased. 

On Wednesday, Unions including UNISON, GMB, Unite and the TUC branded the lack of protective equipment among frontline workers a “crisis within a crisis” in a joint statement.

The Government responded that it had delivered 390 million pieces of PPE in the previous two weeks and had a dedicated helpline to help staff request more. 

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