Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned Monday that delays in global shipments and “recent restrictions at the U.S. border have severely strained” the provincial inventory and left Canada’s most populous province with roughly a one-week supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to fight COVID-19.
In an earlier interview with Global News on Monday morning, Ford said that a shipment of three million medical masks for the province was blocked at the U.S. border on Sunday on the way to Canada.
“That’s unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable that they’re doing this,” Ford told Global News.
“Hopefully we’re going to work through it and get an exemption for Canada.”
Made-in-Canada solution still weeks away
While the province, which boasts the lion’s share of Canada’s manufacturing sector, has taken steps to ramp up its own production of critical PPE, many of these supplies are weeks away from being in the hands of frontline health care workers, Ford said in a statement.
“In the meantime, we are desperately counting on the fulfillment of shipments that Ontario has placed through the federal government’s bulk purchasing program,” Ford said.
Ontario is also “exhausting every possible option that is available to the province to acquire equipment from around the globe,” he added.
Speaking at his daily briefing outside his home at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is in constant contact with the provinces about PPE and other important supplies.
The government is also in talks with the U.S., Trudeau said.
‘A two-way street’
“We continue to have constructive and productive conversations with officials in the American administration who understand that essential services and supplies are very much a two-way street between Canada and the United States,” Trudeau said.
“We will continue to work together, we’re going to make sure that goods and services that are essential continue to flow and expect those shipments to come in soon.”
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne discuss the situation with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo on Monday, according to a readout of the call released by the State Department.
“Secretary Pompeo reiterated the United States’ desire to work with Canada to ensure the viability of international supply chains for crucial medical supplies and personnel, while also meeting the needs of regions with the most severe outbreaks,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.
Ford said he was also personally engaging with top-ranking American officials to make the case for Canada to be exempted from last week’s presidential order directing PPE manufacturers in the U.S. to stop exports of these critical supplies to Canada and Mexico.
“These conversations have been progressing well and we are optimistic that the U.S. government will grant Canada an exemption,” Ford said.