US pauses USAID's international shipments of coronavirus aid

US pauses USAID's international shipments of coronavirus aid
© Greg Nash

A White House task force has put on hold contributions to foreign countries' efforts to battle the coronavirus from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in order to better review the supplies being sent abroad.

Politico reported Wednesday that the coronavirus task force headed by Vice President Pence is reviewing all aid shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) bound for foreign countries to ensure that the U.S. is not sending superfluous shipments or items that are needed in the U.S. to fight the coronavirus.

“The idea is to figure out what is in short supply and how it compares to what USAID has overseas,” said one official familiar with the review process. “Given what’s happening in the United States and the shortage of critical supplies, it would be really difficult to be sending things abroad when we need them here at home.”

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The decision to place shipments on hold for review came after U.S. officials reportedly discovered that items they planned to ask officials in Thailand to contribute to the U.S. were already on the way out of the U.S. in the form of a USAID shipment to Thailand.

The review process is meant to place one official in charge of the shipments so that the administration has better control over the process, the official continued.

“The problem is, there’s not one person who’s in charge of this, which is why we’re instituting a review process that is led by the White House coronavirus task force,” they said.

A spokesperson for the vice president called the decision a "holistic approach" to ensuring that shortages of PPE in the U.S. were not further compounded by aid shipments.

“It’s a good thing that we're taking a holistic look at where and when we’re sending PPE as we're looking to fulfill needs here at home,” the spokesperson told Politico.