China’s telecommunications giant, Huawei, has secretly sent millions of masks and other protective equipment to Canada to help frontline medical workers overcome the coronavirus outbreak there.
Although the federal government has issued a national call asking domestic businesses to offer products and services to help meet demand, Canada has seen a critical shortage of life-saving medical equipment amid increasing cases of COVID-19.
The shortage was exacerbated on Thursday when the administration of US President Donald Trump told US producers 3M to stop sending medical-level face masks to Canada and Latin America. However, the company later announced it had reached an agreement to send respirators to Canada and countries in Latin America.
Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the media on Saturday that Canada will receive millions of masks from unnamed countries and companies within the next 48 hours.
Huawei’s donation, including more than one million masks, glasses and gloves, was received by the British Columbia government last weekend, but was not publicly recognized until the provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Monday Monday about the arrival of timely supplies.
“The province has many sources of supply including transfers from our federal partners and various domestic and international suppliers,” Dix told PostmediaNews. “We do not share details about our suppliers.”
Some observers see Huawei’s contribution related to companies seeking approval to join the next generation of Canadian 5G networks, and with the case of Meng Wanzhou, its chief financial officer, who was arrested in Vancouver in 2018.
But Huawei said it was only trying to help by fulfilling corporate responsibilities.
And the company’s contribution is “very valuable” because the rapid spread of COVID-19 sparked a global race to buy masks, according to The Globe and Mail.
Asked by the media about the Huawei prize, Trudeau said on Tuesday that donations of medical supplies from foreign companies would not change the way the government looked at the companies going forward.
Separately, Alykhan Velshi, vice president of corporate affairs at Huawei Canada, said the company was reaching out to provinces in Canada to provide medical masks and other equipment, but that was not something to “promote or publicize”.
“Many companies are making similar efforts and we are fortunate we are in a position that logically and financially can help as much as we can,” Velshi told Postmedia.
“We are in a unique position because we have 1,200 employees in communities across Canada. So we see the need. As a global multinational company we operate in more than 180 countries, so we can find and access supplies. Our scale and logistics capabilities mean we can move quickly, “said Velshi.
Huawei has donated millions of protective masks around the world since March to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
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