By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A representative of a local shipping company is dismayed after being told by US officials that they will not be allowed to access imported medical supplies to help in the fight against the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Manager of Betty K, Nancy Cartwright told The Tribune earlier on Wednesday that the company was hired to bring in three containers of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, for local healthcare workers.
After the shipment left the US on Tuesday, Mrs Cartwright said representatives received a notice from US Coast Guard officials, saying they would not be able to access the medical supplies due to a recent order implemented by US President Donald Trump.
She said: “Once the vessel left the Port of Miami yesterday (Tuesday), we got instruction from the US Coast Guard and Border Protection that the (president) put an order in for April 3 that medical supplies, mainly PPE, are not allowed to leave the United States of America (for export).
“So, we are not allowed to manifest those three containers nor can we offload them. We have to send them straight back to Miami for offloading. The ship is coming in today (Wednesday). It’s already in today but we are not allowed to offload those containers.
“They are to stay on the vessel and go back to the United States.”
To try to resolve the matter, Mrs Cartwright said she reached out to an official at the Public Hospitals Authority. She said she understands health officials were trying to speak with American diplomats about the issue.
“. . .I told them that they have until 4 o'clock.
“If they are able to get it reversed, our vessel leaves at 4 o’clock today and otherwise we have to send it back.”
If the matter was not rectified by then, Mrs Cartwright told The Tribune: “We definitely will not get (the items), but I don’t know if the gauze and those kind of things will be able to be return but definitely the mask stuff and the gown for the medical staff will not be allowed.
“Our healthcare workers need these items. These are PPE kits, all medical stuff for the hospital.
“…There’s no ventilators, just personal protection stuff like gauze and medical supplies but the main thing they’re worried about is the N-95 masks, surgical gloves, surgical gowns — all of that has been restricted from leaving the US.”
The Tribune contacted Mrs Cartwright again on Wednesday afternoon to see whether the supplies had been released to the company.
However, she replied: “They had to go back. We didn’t get a concession to keep it here. We’re just concerned for the healthcare workers and I’m hoping that there are other ways or places where we can get this stuff from so we don’t have to put our healthcare workers at risk.”
During a press conference last Friday, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands noted that five healthcare workers had tested positive for the highly infectious disease.
More than 50 workers, he added, have been taken out of the healthcare system and are in quarantine due to exposure to the novel coronavirus.
Noting the matter as a “grave concern”, Dr Sands said it’s important for individuals to take the virus seriously to ensure
healthcare workers are not exposed to the disease, as it diminishes the ability of the health system to respond.