As many people are now aware, the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID–19) in China has rapidly permeated and profoundly changed the world. While this crisis is first and foremost a public health issue, which has claimed the lives of over 123,600 people worldwide, and counting, the economic damages are unprecedented on several fronts: crude oil prices have declined dramatically to as low as US$17 per barrel by the end of March, even before applying the discounts many oil exporters are offering; stock valuations for the NSE ASI, Nikkei, Dow Jones and FTSE–100 have declined by an average of 23.8 per cent between January and March 2020; global airlines have lost about US$252 billion in revenues and across the broad range of industries from hospitality to services, the pain is growing.
These outcomes have expectedly thrown the global economy into a recession, the depth and duration of which is currently difficult to fathom. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the global economy would decline by 3 percent this year. Around the world, countries have moved away from multilateralism and responded by fighting for themselves with several measures to protect their own people and economies, regardless of the spillover effects on the rest of the world.
According to the World Customs Organisation, a total of 32 countries and territories, adopted stringent and immediate export restrictions on critical medical supplies and drugs that were specifically meant to respond to COVID–19. As of 10 April 2020, an updated count of total export restrictions by the Global Trade Alert Team at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland suggest a total of 102 restrictions by 75 countries. On 4 March 2020, Germany announced an export ban that applied to all sorts of medical protection gear including breathing masks, medical gloves and protective suits. Around the same time, President Macron announced that France will requisition all face masks produced in the country, a de facto export ban.
Between 8 February 2020 and 6 April 2020, India released eight (8) different export notifications banning several drugs and medical supplies including hydroxychloroquine, ventilators, personal protections masks, oxygen therapy apparatus, and breathing devices. On 3 April 2020, the Trump administration invoked the war–era US Defense Production Act to stop major US mask manufacturer, 3M, from the export of respirator masks, N95, to Canada and Latin America.