OTTAWA – Canada needs to do more to persuade Washington not to prevent medical supplies from flowing across the border, even though US officials have permitted the export of 500,000 masks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.
Trudeau told a briefing that the N95 surgical mask from Saint Co., 3M Co. based in Minnesota – part of the four million ordered by the province of Ontario to help fight the corona virus – will arrive on Wednesday.
Canadian officials pressure U.S. colleagues after Ontario complained the shipment was blocked. U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order last week to stop personal protective equipment from being exported.
“We have had constructive and productive talks that have ensured that this special shipment is coming but we realize there is still a lot of work to be done,” Trudeau said.
“We will continue to highlight to the American administration the point where supplies and health services go back and forth across the border,” he continued.
3M said late Monday that it had reached an agreement with the Trump administration that allowed exports to Canada to continue.
Canada’s death toll from the outbreak rose to 345 from 293 on Monday, chief medical officer Theresa Tam said at a daily briefing. The total number of cases was 17,063, compared to 15,822 the day before.
Tam said he feared the disease was spreading rapidly among vulnerable sectors such as the homes of the elderly, prisons, and remote aboriginal communities, where healthcare resources had been expanded.
Ontario, the most populous of the 10 Canadian provinces, said it was running out of personal protective equipment.
Canadian officials complained of the market for medical equipment such as “Wild West,” and said they could not guarantee the masks, dresses and gloves they ordered would arrive.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada is committed to companies around the world to buy more than 230 million masks, of which more than 16 million have been shipped. He has also ordered 75 million N95 surgical masks and hopes to have 2.3 million masks by the end of this week.
“We will not rest until this supply is in Canada,” he told the briefing, adding that officials were aggressive when they tracked potential suppliers.
The province is also worried about the lack of ventilators. Trudeau said Ottawa is working with domestic companies to produce up to 30,000 ventilators.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Sandra Maler and Sonya Hepinstall)
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