Canada is set to receive “millions” of medical masks from China, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Saturday.
Trudeau made the comments from Rideau Cottage, where he is currently self-isolating.
According to Trudeau, in the next 48 hours Canada will be receiving a shipment of millions of masks by a chartered cargo flight from China.
Trudeau said included in the shipment are items ordered for Quebec, where the most cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Canada.
Trudeau said the federal government is working with provinces in order to transport the medical supplies.
Ottawa is expecting a shipment of seven to eight million surgical masks.
Trudeau said Canada has also leased a warehouse in China to collect and distribute additional supplies “as quickly as possible.”
Trudeau said Air Canada and Cargojet are assisting in this effort.
“I want to take a moment to thank everyone, whether you’re working in a warehouse, flying the plane or part of the ground crew, for your dedication,” he said.
Trudeau’s comments come a day after U.S. President Donald Trump asked Minnesota-based company 3M not to supply N95 respirators to Canada.
Trump on Friday ordered 3M to produce and sell as many medical-grade masks as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it needs.
He invoked the Defence Production Act in order to speed up the distribution of masks.
But, speaking to reporters on Saturday, Trudeau said Canada is not considering retaliatory measures in response to Trump’s move.
“We are continuing to engage in constructive discussions with different levels within the administration to highlight that the U.S. will be hurting itself as much as Canada will be hurting if we see an interruption of essential goods and services flow back and forth across the border,” he said. “We continue to demonstrate that this is a good thing for both of our countries and we look to continue to ensure that essential supplies get across the border.”
Trudeau said the government has been working “day and night”to source medical supplies for Canadian front line workers.
“We have shipments coming in in the next 24 hours. We’ve received shipments over the past days,” he said. “We continue to work with suppliers around the world to ensure that we do get the medical equipment that we need and we have more coming in regularly.“
Trudeau said the government is also turning to Canadian manufacturers to develop “made in Canada products, PPE, security equipment and medical supplies.”
“That is going to actually not just supply Canada, but be there to supply other countries who need them as we meet our own needs,” he said. “This is part of what Canada is doing to ensure that we are protecting our front line workers and all Canadians every single day.”
Canada’s chief medical health officer echoed Trudeau’s remarks at a press conference on Saturday, saying Canada was “pulling out all the stops” to secure personal protective equipment PPE for frontline workers.
Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada is looking at “multiple streams of supply” including domestic and international.
On Friday, health officials in Ontario released projection numbers, saying the province could see just under 1,600 COVID-19 deaths and 80,000 cases by the end of April, if current measures in place are upheld.
Asked on Saturday if the federal government would be releasing models, Trudeau said they would be sharing some “in the days to come.”
“Canada at the federal level, will continue to pull together the information and make models and predictions based on that,” he said. “But regardless of the curves and the models put forward, one thing is consistent throughout all those predictions: that the more people stay self-isolated, who stay at home, keep that two meters of distance from each other, don’t go out unless absolutely necessary and wash their hands regularly, the better off we’ll be.”
What’s more, Tam warned that these projections are not “crystal balls.”
She said while it is reasonable to plan for worst-case scenarios, it is also reasonable to look at what is happening presently.
“Planning for a range of scenarios is what we do,” she said.
Tam said as of Saturday, serious cases of COVID-19 remained “far within” the capacity of Canada’s health-care system, saying there was still an excess of intensive care unit beds available right now.
She cautioned, though, that the situation remains “very dynamic” and could change at any time.
Tam said Canadians must continue to abide by the measures in place to limit the spread of the virus, including practising physical distancing and staying home as much as possible.