With demand on the rise, PM says thousands of companies offering to make COVID-19 supplies
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that demand for critical supplies such as test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment is going up across the country as COVID-19 cases climb, and almost 5,000 Canadian companies have reached out to offer help producing these items.
Trudeau said the federal government’s March 20 call out for businesses to retool production is helping to amass a made-in-Canada stockpile.
“We need a sustainable, stable supply of these products,” Trudeau said. “To ensure that our front-line workers have everything they need to save lives and stay safe.”
He said that “the entire world was unprepared” to have enough protective equipment, and the only option Canada has right now is to produce as many supplies as quickly as possible.
Highlighting some of the deals already signed for supplies to start rolling off of domestic manufacturing lines, Trudeau mentioned that more than 30,000 ventilators are being fast-tracked, a far higher number than previously stated.
Trudeau also said that more than 20 companies are helping make medical gowns including brands Arc’teryx and Canada Goose. That includes AutoLiv, a company that’s looking to make gowns out of material it typically uses to make airbags.
In a release following his remarks the government also noted that millions of surgical masks have been ordered from Canadian companies, and hand sanitizer is being produced with the help of cosmetics and alcohol industry groups.
Asked whether he anticipates Canada having to put into use that many ventilators, Trudeau said he hoped not. “If we end up making more ventilators than Canada needs because Canadians continue to stay social distancing, continue to follow best health advice, that would be great news and we will have ventilators to share with other countries that are facing more difficult circumstances,” Trudeau said.
The government continues to describe the current international efforts to procure medical supplies as a “Wild West,” but more shipments of essential protective gear are set to arrive this week.
“International logistics are challenging. We are working closely with our partners around the world including embassies, as well as with on the ground logistics and co-ordination forms to ensure that supplies can move from source to where they are needed in Canada,” said Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Among those shipments are 500,000 masks from U.S. company 3M, Trudeau said, after a few days of diplomatic back and forth. As well, Anand said that a delivery of approximately 8 million surgical masks arrived from China on Monday.
The procurement minister also said approximately 75 million N95 masks and 113,000 litres of hand sanitizer have been ordered, with portions of both orders arriving this week.
The government says it is currently working through over 22,000 submissions to Public Services and Procurement Canada from companies interested or able to sell to Canada.
Trudeau spoke to Canadians once again from outside of Rideau Cottage.
PARLIAMENT RECALL ON HORIZON
Trudeau has yet to give a date as to when Parliament will resume for its second emergency session to pass a multi-billion-dollar expansion to COVID-19 financial assistance measures.
As of Monday evening, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said that the Liberals had provided a draft copy of the proposed legislation to the opposition parties. Expected to be the central focus of the legislation is allowing for the expanded wage subsidy which the government has called the largest economic program in Canadian history.
Trudeau said these changes will come through amendments to the Income Tax Act.
Trudeau said that House leaders will be speaking throughout the day to reach an agreement on quickly passing the legislation.
MILLIONS APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID
Monday was the first day Canadians could apply for the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and more than 788,000 people applied. An additional 178,000 filed for employment insurance, meaning nearly one million Canadians applied for federal financial help on April 6 alone, the government said on Tuesday.
A total of 3.67 million Canadians have applied for these benefits since March 15, with the majority of these claims already processed.
Trudeau said Monday that the federal government will soon introduce new measures to make emergency benefits accessible for Canadians who don’t currently qualify such as contract workers and students.
MAKE SURE ALL DOING THEIR PART
As more and more municipalities are reporting issuing tickets and fines against people who are not abiding by local public health measures, Trudeau was asked whether he was supportive of that approach and whether or not he thought it was indicative that some people are not taking the pandemic seriously enough.
In response, Trudeau said that the best way to make the pandemic “as short as possible” is to have people stay home.
“We need to make sure that everyone is doing their part. I recognize that lots of police forces and municipal governments and provincial governments are looking at ways of ensuring that people understand how serious it is,” Trudeau said. “And we of course expect people to use good judgment, both on behalf of citizens trying to make sure that they are social distancing and not going out if they don't have to, but also on enforcement officers in terms of applying fines.”
He took a moment in his remarks on Tuesday to thank the public service that has been working around the clock to process these claims.
As well, noting that Tuesday is World Health Day and National Caregiver Day, the prime minister said he was “especially grateful” to those working to keep Canadians safe during this global pandemic.
“We do not need a pandemic or a special day to recognize your essential contributions to this country, but I hope all Canadians will join me in expressing our deepest gratitude,” he said, suggesting Canadians “honk a little louder” during their local demonstrations of thanking health-care workers, which have included banging pots and pans from apartment balconies at set times when shifts change near hospitals and clinics.