PM Trudeau says more medical supplies coming in days as industry retools
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the federal government is spending $2 billion to procure more diagnostic testing, ventilators, and personal protective equipment for front-line workers in the COVID-19 fight, with some supplies set to be ready within days.
“Demand for these goods is going up, so were making sure Canada is ready to keep up,” Trudeau said, adding that the government is also making bulk purchases of the essential protective gear for the provinces and territories.
“We’re expecting shipments to come in in the coming days and we’ll continue to work tirelessly to get the supplies to where they’re needed.”
Providing an update on the March 20 appeal to manufacturers to pivot their production lines to supply various life-saving medical supplies, Trudeau said the government has heard from almost 3,000 companies willing to help.
A handful have already signed, or are close to signing contracts with the government to help boost the health sector’s stockpile of medical supplies including surgical masks, ventilators, test kits, and other protective gear.
The government has already signed procurement agreements with Thornhill Medical, Medicom, and Spartan Bioscience and letters of intent have been signed with Precision Biomonitoring, Fluid Energy Group Ltd., Irving Oil, Calko Group, and Stanfield’s.
Thornhill Medical is making 500 of its portable life support and ventilator units and says they will be available in Canadian health care facilities “by early April.”
The Toronto-based company has partnered with Guelph-based manufacturing company Linamar to produce the new units. In a statement discussing their agreement with the government, Thornhill Medical says the oxygen-generating devices are battery operated and allows health care workers “to maintain uninterrupted ICU-level care anywhere in the hospital,” or while transferring between hospitals.
“We are honoured to provide our Canadian-made ventilator system to support Canadians and our health-care system… in these unprecedented circumstances,” said the company’s CEO, Lesley Gouldie in a statement.
As part of this, hundreds of ventilators are now in production and the government has ordered millions of supplies in anticipation of a surge of patients at Canadian hospitals.
More equipment will be needed, from masks to testing kits, the prime minister said, cautioning that the scale of those needs will depend on how seriously Canadians take the physical distancing and self-isolation measures in place.
“If you stay home and follow public health recommendations, you can slow the spread and that means fewer patients in our hospitals, fewer people to test, and fewer ventilators to use on critical patients,” Trudeau said.
Starting this year, the government will be earmarking $1.5 billion over two yearsto the Public Health Agency of Canada to support purchasing these supplies and diagnostic equipment with an additional $500 million coming in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
This industry effort includes building up the manufacturing capacity to produce equipment and supplies including face shields, gowns, and sanitizer. The government has also shifted the country’s entire industrial policy to focus on the COVID-19 fight. This has included reprioritizing existing innovation and research programs and working on agreements with industry to fast-track the creation and regulatory approvals for getting diagnostic testing products and other disease tracking technology to market.
Trudeau offered thanks to the companies that have collected and donated supplies to the Canadian effort, as well as the many smaller businesses who have offered their expertise and capacity to help meet the needs of front-line staff.
“It is so important that we have made-in-Canada supply chains to provide us with this essential equipment for the coming weeks, for the coming months,” Trudeau said.
Cost of economic aid details coming
The prime minister spoke to the latest efforts the federal government is taking to address the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage, as the number of cases in Canada continues to climb.
Later Tuesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Minister Mary Ng are expected to provide an update on the costs of certain economic aid measures taken so far, including the expanded wage subsidy for Canadian businesses.
With the scheduled federal budget day come and gone, and the price tag continuing to grow as the government focuses on ways to keep Canadians safe and employed, the ministers are expected to outline more details about the economic impact of measures taken so far.
The government continues to indicate more financial assistance will come to Canadians and impacted sectors as the shutdown of many aspects of society continues, to try to flatten the curve of the virus.
Early Tuesday, the government announced it would be waiving the ground lease rents between March and December 2020 for the 21 airports that pay rent to the federal government, as well as to PortsToronto, which operates the Billy Bishop airport in downtown Toronto.
Noting how the air transportation sector has been impacted by the worldwide travel restrictions aimed at limited the spread of COVID-19, the government said it wanted to reduce “cost pressures and preserve their cash flow.”
This move is estimated to result in $331.4 million in relief.
“We want to provide relief for these important entities who are still open under difficult circumstances, and are helping to help bring Canadians home. We are appreciative that they continue to support the flow of people and goods during this challenging time,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.
Later Tuesday, the House health committee will be convening an entirely virtual meeting, to receive a briefing from health, foreign affairs, and border officials about COVID-19 response efforts underway.