Canada needs to do more to ensure flow of U.S. medical supplies: Trudeau

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada needs to do more to persuade Washington not to block medical supplies from flowing across the border, even though U.S. officials have allowed the export of 500,000 masks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Trudeau told a briefing that the N95 surgical masks from Saint Paul, Minnesota-based 3M Co – part of a batch of four million ordered by the province of Ontario to help fight the coronavirus – should arrive on Wednesday.

Canadian officials pressed their U.S. counterparts after Ontario complained the shipment had been 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 conversations that have assured that this particular shipment comes through but we recognize there is still more work to do,” Trudeau said.

“We are going to continue to highlight to the American administration the point to which healthcare supplies and services go back and forth across that border,” he continued.

3M said late on Monday that it had reached a deal with the Trump administration allowing exports to Canada to continue.

The Canadian death toll from the outbreak rose to 345 from 293 on Monday, chief medical officer Theresa Tam told a daily briefing. The total number of cases is 17,063, compared to 15,822 a day earlier.

Tam said she was worried that the disease was spreading quickly among vulnerable sectors such as seniors’ homes, prisons and remote aboriginal communities, where healthcare resources are already stretched.

Ontario, the most populous of Canada’s 10 provinces, says it is running out of personal protection equipment.

Canadian officials complain the market for medical equipment is like the “Wild West,” and say they cannot guarantee the masks, gowns and gloves they have ordered will arrive.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada had commitments to companies around the world to buy more than 230 million face masks, of which more than 16 million had been delivered. It has also ordered 75 million N95 surgical masks and expects to have 2.3 million by end of the week.

“We will not rest until these supplies are in Canada,” she told the briefing, adding that officials were being aggressive as they tracked down potential suppliers.

The provinces are also worried about a lack of ventilators. Trudeau said Ottawa was working with domestic firms to produce up to 30,000 ventilators.

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