Protective medical equipment made by US manufacturer 3M and bound for Germany was intercepted in Thailand and diverted to the US, in an incident a senior German official described as “modern piracy”.

The city of Berlin had ordered special FFP2 and FFP3 masks that are used to protect emergency staff and care workers from infection with coronavirus. The order was for 200,000 such masks, according to the German newspaper Tagesspiegel.

Berlin’s interior minister Andreas Geisel confirmed that the consignment had been “confiscated” in Bangkok and never reached Berlin.

“We consider that an act of modern piracy,” he said. “You don’t treat your transatlantic partners like that.”