Canada's largest province says U.S. blocked delivery of three million masks

FILE PHOTO: Ontario Premier Doug Ford is seen after a meeting with Canada’s provincial premiers in Toronto, Ontario, Canada December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The premier of Ontario, Canada’s largest province, on Monday said the United States had blocked the delivery of three million face masks designed to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Doug Ford told Global News the incident had happened over the weekend and described it as “absolutely unacceptable”. He also said the province’s stock of personal protective equipment would run out in a week.

Allies of the United States are complaining about what they call its “Wild West” tactics in outbidding or blocking shipments to buyers who have already signed deals for medical equipment.

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked manufacturing firm 3M Co to pause the exports of domestically-produced respirator masks to Canada and some Latin American countries.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sidestepped reporters’ questions about the incident on Monday, saying his government was in productive talks with the United States and adding: “We expect those shipments to be delivered.”

Separately, Canadian medical health officials said the death toll had risen to 293 from 258 on Sunday. The number of positive cases is now 15,822, up from 14,426.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy

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