Canada will spend $2 billion (USD 1.43 billion) on medical equipment as hospitals fear shortages in the face of the accelerating coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.
The move came as the country reached the grim milestone of 100 deaths, and as nearly 8,500 cases were reported by mid-day.
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“For some equipment, we have supply for three to seven days only,” said Francois Legault, premier of Quebec — the province most affected, with nearly half of the cases in Canada.
The money dispensed from the capital Ottawa will be used to buy “personal protective equipment” such as masks, visors, gowns and hand sanitizer, Trudeau said at his daily press conference.
Deliveries of some parts could take a few weeks, he acknowledged.
“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 be able to have ‘made in Canada solutions’,” Trudeau said.
In particular, Canada has ordered more than 60 million N95 masks, a “key piece” to protect caregivers from infection, said Public Services and Supply Minister Anita Anand.
“Delivery of these will begin this week,” she said, with orders expected from China.
The government has also secured commitments from other manufacturers for the supply of 157 million surgical masks, the minister added.
Ottawa has also ordered 1,570 respirators from companies in Canada, Europe and the United States, and is working to secure another 4,000, she said.