Thornhill Medical’s MOVES® SLC™ unit is a compact portable, self-contained device that provides all of the crucial functions available in a modern intensive care unit (ICU). (CNW Group/Thornhill Medical)

Trudeau promises surge of made-in-Canada masks, ventilators and testing kits

The federal government has signed contracts with three Canadian companies to make ventilators, surgical masks, test kits and other medical supplies over the coming weeks to cope with the country’s rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

In addition to the contracts signed with Thornhill Medical, Medicom, and Spartan Bioscience, the federal government has signed letters of intent with five other companies that produce relevant equipment and supplies: Precision Biomonitoring, Fluid Energy Group, Irving Oil, CalkoGroup, and Stanfield’s, Trudeau said.

“We know that the demand for critical equipment and supplies will grow in the coming weeks, so we need a sustainable, stable supply of these products,” Trudeau said during his regular briefing from the porch of his home in Ottawa.

“And that means making them at home and we’re optimistic that they will be available in the coming weeks.”

COVID-19 infections rising in Canada and globally

As of Tuesday morning, Canada registered 7,708 cases of COVID-19 infections and 89 deaths related to the novel coronavirus, Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief medical officer said.

All of Canada’s provinces and territories, with the exception of the Arctic territory of Nunavut, have confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the Province of Quebec having the lion’s share of infections with over 3,430 cases as of Tuesday.

The number of global infections climbed to over 838,000 cases, resulting in over 41,000 deaths.

Of particular concern for Canada is the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States, which saw over 177,000 cases on Tuesday, with the over 3,440 deaths.

Ottawa purchases millions of masks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The federal government is allocating $2 billion to purchase protective personal equipment, including for bulk purchases with provinces and territories, Trudeau said.

The government will be earmarking $1.5 billion over two years to 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.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the government ordered 157 million surgical masks and 60 million N95 masks that offer enhanced protection against viruses, such as COVID-19.

The federal government also has ordered close to 1,570 ventilators and more than a million COVID-19 test kits.

And Ottawa is working to secure an additional 4,000 ventilators, Anand said.

“This is all hands on deck,” she said Tuesday. “Our government is leaving no stone unturned.”

As part of the deal, Toronto-based Thornhill Medical is making 500 mobile compact ventilator systems and expects to have them out the door in early April.

Made-in-Canada solutions

From coast to coast to coast, Canadian businesses are retooling to produce face shields, ventilators, hand sanitizers, and other supplies needed by frontline healthcare professionals to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Trudeau said.

Almost 3,000 companies have reached out to the federal government since it launched Canada’s Plan to Mobilize Industry to fight COVID-19 a little over a week ago, Trudeau said.

“The entire world is trying to get its hands on the various equipment needed to fight this virus. That is why we know that it will be important to have made-in-Canada solutions,” Trudeau said.

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