At an April 7 press conference in front of his home at Rideau Cottage, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canadian companies are currently working to produce 30,000 ventilators over the “coming weeks and months.”
Beginning by wishing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson a quick recovery from COVID-19 (the British PM was admitted to the ICU on April 6), Trudeau went on to say that the federal government has signed letters of intent with a number of Canadian companies to produce medical equipment, including masks, gowns, test kits and the aforementioned ventilators.
Trudeau added that the government is currently working with Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Art McDonald, to create ventilators that are easy to make.
He also told reporters that the government has received inquiries from 5,000 companies who want to retool their facilities to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Some companies, such as Canada Goose, are working to create protective gowns for health care providers.
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“It’s truly inspiring to see so many people wanting to help,” Trudeau said.
“The demand for critical supplies like test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment is going up. We need a sustainable, stable supply of these products and that means making them at home.”
Trudeau said that the government is “doing everything it can” to avoid shortages in medical equipment and is purchasing goods from other countries, adding that Canada is expecting 500,000 masks from 3M.
When asked if the U.S. will exempt Canada from restrictions on the export of medical equipment going forward, Trudeau said the Canadian government is continuing to emphasize how both countries benefit from the unobstructed movement of goods across the border.
“We’ve had constructive and productive conversations to make sure the 3M shipment comes through. There’s more work to do. We’ll continue to highlight that it’s in both of our interests to ensure we work together.”
When asked why local companies have been tasked with creating 30,000 ventilators–and if the government expects all of them to be used–Trudeau said that the country is preparing for a worst-case scenario and hopes that not all will be needed domestically.
“We need to make sure they’re available if we need them. We hope we won’t be needing all of them, but we know that some countries can’t tool up local ventilators and if end up making more than we need, we will have ventilators to share with other countries,” he said.
“Doing more and doing it quickly right now is the only option.”
When asked why Canada didn’t begin preparing for the impending crisis back in January by procuring as much medical equipment as possible, Trudeau said that all countries were caught off guard and that Canada has done well under the circumstances.
“The entire world was unprepared to have as much personal protective equipment as needed. Some places have worse shortages. We’ve worked to step up and increase Canadian production. We recognize that we’re lucky that Canadian companies are stepping up. We continue to work to bring in the equipment that’s necessary,” he said.
When asked about antibody testing and rapid wide-scale testing, Trudeau said that Canada is doing well compared to some other countries (and steadily increasing its testing rates), but added that the country “can and should be doing even better.”
When pressed about the possible use of serologic testing–and the fact that Canada is currently selling such kits to the U.S.–Trudeau said that such testing is very new and that the government is reflecting on its medical and social implications.
According to John Hopkins’ Center for Health Security, serology tests are blood-based tests that can be used to identify whether people have been exposed to a particular pathogen by looking at their immune response. On its website, the American health agency says that such tests can give greater detail into the prevalence of a disease in a population by identifying individuals who have developed antibodies to the virus.
Trudeau said that as far as the use of such testing goes, nothing is off the table.
The prime minister also said that the House of Commons will reconvene very soon to pass legislation related to the wage subsidy.
He also told reporters that the government will continue to press banks to take more aggressive action to potentially lower credit card interest rates and provide more relief to Canadians affected by COVID-19.
Cover photo courtesy of The Canadian Press