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HEALTH

‘Modern-day piracy’: German official says US swooped on masks at airport

The United States diverted a delivery of Chinese-made face masks bound for Germany at a Bangkok airport, a Berlin city official said Friday, accusing Washington of "modern-day piracy" as competition for protective gear against the coronavirus heats up.

'Modern-day piracy': German official says US swooped on masks at airport
The company Ber-Bek in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania lays out masks ready to be transported on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

In a statement Berlin's state minister of the interior, Andreas Geisel, said 200,000 highly sought-after FFP2 masks, made by an American firm in China and destined for use by Berlin police, were “confiscated” in Bangkok.

“At the moment we assume this is in connection with the US government's export ban on masks,” the statement said.

President Donald Trump, after a late start in procuring urgently needed protective gear, has in recent days invoked the Defense Production Act to get US firms to divert their resources to the battle against the pandemic.

According to German newspaper Bild, the hijacked shipment contained masks made in China by US firm 3M, one of the leading brands in the sector, that were then diverted to the United States.

Trump had on Thursday lashed out at 3M on Twitter, saying the administration “hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks”.

“P Act” all the way. Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing – will have a big price to pay!”, he wrote, referring to the Defense Production Act.

READ ALSO: Germany enlists industrial giants to procure face masks and medical gear

 

'Wild West'

German Health Minister Jens Spahn told a press conference on Friday that he was unaware of the specific incident in Bangkok but said reports of this kind had been coming in and “are generally not a good development”.

Local official Geisel was more blunt, blasting the US for resorting to “methods from the Wild West”.

“We see this as an act of modern-day piracy,” he said, urging the German government to remind Washington to “comply with international rules”.

French officials have also complained this week that Americans had swooped on Chinese masks ordered by France, after apparently outbidding them on a shipment that had already been lined up.

A senior US official however told AFP that the claims were “completely false”.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked officials to look into similar claims that masks were being diverted from his country, calling such reports “concerning.”

READ ALSO: Coronavirus deaths in Germany top 1,000 as officials say infection rate is slowing

Member comments

  1. You reported that German had the fifth highest number of Corona infections but it’s actually the fourth highest.

  2. Joanne M. Oh, I am so very sorry that we would resort to such despicable actions. I am also embarrassed. I had a new Heat Pump and Heater installed last month in my Condo, very expensive, but I will donate to your fund as soon as possible. I wish I lived in your country. I have many good friends living here who are from Germany and I have a Dear friend who is living there.
    There are many things my country does that I do not approve of, but, of course, all I can do is vote and hope. Again, my sincere apologies.

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

READ ALSO: 

Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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