OTTAWA — Canada has ordered 30,000 new ventilators from domestic companies but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he is hoping we don’t end up needing nearly that many.
Federal officials also said more than 230 million surgical masks and 75 million N95 respirator masks have been ordered but cautioned the global supply chain is so fragile they cannot guarantee how many of those will actually arrive.
Front-line medical workers remain in desperate need of personal protective equipment, including gowns and N95 masks. Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned Monday his province would run out of those supplies in one week.
A shipment of 500,000 N95 masks from Minnesota-based 3M bound for Ontario is set to arrive Wednesday. The shipment was delayed after President Donald Trump ordered the company to stop exporting critical equipment needed in the U.S.
A full-court press from Canada overcame that obstacle for the time being, but Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday the entire world is looking for these supplies and the markets to buy them are changing, sometimes by the hour.
Trudeau said this morning “the entire world was unprepared” for a pandemic of this size, and said Canada is better off than some other countries where supplies are more limited and the outbreak more severe.
Trudeau said about 5,000 Canadian companies have answered the call for help to make everything from face masks to medical gowns to help treat people afflicted with COVID-19. That includes a number of companies which had federal procurement policies fast-tracked in order to make 30,000 new ventilators.
He says the new ventilators will be ready “in the coming weeks” but nobody was more specific about when.
In late March, it was estimated that Canada had around 5,000 ventilators already across the country.
Trudeau says ordering 30,000 more is intended to get more than we need as quickly as possible and any we don’t end up using will be made available to other countries in need.
“We certainly hope we do not get anywhere near that number” of patients on ventilators, he said.
Anand said 16 million of the surgical masks the federal government ordered have already been delivered, and that 2.3 million of the N95 masks ordered will be in Canada by the end of the week.
Canada is also in need of surgical gowns but getting a domestic supply of those was difficult because the materials used to make them aren’t produced in Canada, said Industry Minister Navdeep Bains.
A bit of extra effort led to the discovery that materials normally used to make air bags and construction house wrap can be used to make the gowns, so manufacturers of those items were connected with apparel companies, including Canada Goose, to make new surgical gowns domestically, he said.
A few hundred Canadian patients are in intensive care because of COVID-19 but it’s not clear how many are on ventilators, because provinces treat the numbers differently.