Background video: U.S. President Donald Trump says on April 3, 2020, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends Americans wear cloth face coverings to protect against COVID-19. (Xinhua/Hu Yousong)

The order is aimed at preventing "wartime profiteers" from purchasing domestic supplies and hoarding them to "generate foreign demand," which it said will "lead to price gouging."

WASHINGTON, April 4(Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday issued a presidential memorandum under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to prevent the export of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the memorandum, "domestic use, as appropriate" is prioritized in the allocation of items including N95 and other respirators, surgical masks and gloves that are designated "scarce or threatened materials."

While the Secretary of Homeland Security, "through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services," is authorized to allocate the items, the duty of designation falls upon the Secretary of Health and Human Services, according to the memorandum.

The White House said in a statement that the order is aimed at preventing "wartime profiteers" from purchasing domestic supplies and hoarding them to "generate foreign demand," which it said will "lead to price gouging."

"Today's order is another step in our ongoing fight to prevent hoarding, price gouging, and profiteering by preventing the harmful export of critically needed PPE," the statement said, adding, however, that it will not "interfere with the ability of PPE manufacturers to export when doing so is consistent with United States policy and in the national interest of the United States."

Photo taken on June 7, 2019, shows U.S. President Donald Trump speaking to reporters upon arrival at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)

Passed by Congress in 1950 as a response to the Korean War, the DPA authorizes the president to direct companies to increase the production of national defense-related items. It also entitles the president to control the distribution of supplies deemed critical.

The latest order came after U.S. mask manufacturing giant 3M Company hit back at Trump's order issued Thursday, also under the DPA, asking the company to cease its face mask exports. 3M said the president's request will nonetheless make domestic supplies less available.   

Calling the president's blame "absurd," 3M CEO Mike Roman said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Friday that "nothing is further from the truth."

"The idea that 3M is not doing all it can to fight price gouging and unauthorized reselling is absurd," Roman said. "The idea that we're not doing everything we can to maximize deliveries of respirators in our home country. Nothing is further from the truth."

Ceasing all exports of respirators produced in the United States, 3M said in a statement, "would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done."

"If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease," it added.

Photo taken on March 4, 2020, shows Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Robert Redfield (front) speaking during a press conference on the coronavirus at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new recommendation Friday advising Americans to wear cloth face coverings to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Announcing the CDC's advisory at the White House Coronavirus Task Force news briefing, Trump repeatedly emphasized the voluntary nature of the guidelines.

"I don't think I'm going to be doing it," the president said. "Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens -- I just don't see it."

The trading of barbs between Trump and 3M, as well as the president's latest restrictive measures regarding PPE, painted a starkly opposite picture to a well-established public-private partnership hailed by Vice President Mike Pence as Trump's achievement. Pence now leads the task force team.

These events also came at a time when administration officials have reportedly sounded the alarm about the country's well of protective gear running dry.

Photo taken on Nov. 5, 2019, shows Mike Roman, chairman and chief executive officer of 3M company, addressing the parallel session "Opening-up, Regulation and Business Environment" of the second Hongqiao International Economic Forum in Shanghai, east China. (Xinhua/Fang Zhe)

The Washington Post cited anonymous officials from the Department of Homeland Security as saying the national strategic stockpile of PPE is nearly gone.

"The stockpile was designed to respond to a handful of cities. It was never built or designed to fight a 50-state pandemic," one of the officials was quoted as saying.

Trump confirmed at the task force's briefing Wednesday that the PPE reserve is almost depleted. He said large portions of those supplies are being sent directly from manufacturers to hospitals.

"We don't want it to come to the stockpile because then we have to take it, after it arrives, and bring it to various states and hospitals," Trump said.

Criticized for a lack of a top-down planning, Trump urged states to purchase PPE directly from manufacturers.

"We've asked states where they have large manufacturers of different types of equipment to use those local factories, those local plants and have it made directly, ship it right into the hospitals," he told reporters.

(Article by Xinhua Reporter Deng Xianlai)  

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