London’s PPE stockpile includes hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves: city official

As the Campbellton region battles an outbreak of COVID-19, the nursing union assures the hospital is equipped with PPE. Xinzheng via Getty Images

As the province eyes a slow and gradual reopening from the shutdowns that have been imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears London will be well prepared when that time comes.

Over the last several months, the city has amassed a stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE), including hundreds of thousands of masks and gloves, hundreds of tubs of disinfectant wipes, and dozens of litres of sanitizer, according to London’s manager of corporate security and emergency management, Dave O’Brien.

READ MORE: Premier Doug Ford to announce plans Thursday for Ontario to enter ‘Stage 1’ of reopening

The process of building such a stockpile began in January as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began a rapid spread within China.

Given our experience with [SARS-CoV-1] and H1N1, we sort of saw what was happening overseas and began sourcing additional stockpiles of different PPE,” O’Brien said in an interview Tuesday with 980 CFPL’s Devon Peacock.
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“Since then, we’ve continued through this whole period and making sure that we have PPE available as best as we can for not only our immediate services, but as part of our emergency management program.”

Canada continues to experience a shortage of PPE amid a global surge in demand triggered by the pandemic while Canadian manufacturers scramble to pivot to PPE production. The federal government has contracts with several suppliers for a total of 135.5 million masks.

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With those concerns in mind, O’Brien says the city has had a full logistics section up and running since early March whose sole focus has been sourcing PPE.

Over the last five months, O’Brien says the city has managed to collect some 100,000 masks, 500,000 gloves, and around 80 litres of sanitizer products for its stockpile.

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“We have quite a few tubs of the wipes,” he continued. “I think it’s somewhere in the area of about 400-500 tubs.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canada ‘will not be paying’ for sub standard N95 masks, Trudeau says

To build its PPE collection, the city has worked with its regular product vendors, and has also reached out to suppliers and vendors around the world through its logistics team, O’Brien said.

“And of course, during these times, lots of companies have approached us and offered what they have available to assist us,” he said.

The PPE collection is primarily focused on the city’s service agencies, like emergency services and other critical city services supported as part of the emergency management program, but O’Brien says that if business groups or other agencies are having trouble sourcing needed PPE, they can contact the city by email for assistance.

“We don’t have a formalized program in place. We have had some inquiries, although very few,” he said.

READ MORE: Fauci warns of ‘really serious’ COVID-19 consequences if states reopen too soon

Amid increasing talk of reopening the economy and returning to normalcy, O’Brien stressed that the discussion shouldn’t just focus around personal protective equipment, as important as it may be.

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“The province has provided guidance to businesses on practices and procedures that should be put in place, and sometimes those are more important than the PPE piece,” he said, such as changing the way people work, protocols around working remotely, and isolating potential hazards.

“Those pieces tend to be the more important pieces than the actual mask and gloves part.”

“Having the various processes, ensuring that you’re doing the proper things to stop the spread of the virus, both from a public perspective, but certainly as people return to the workplace, it’s really, really important so we don’t see a resurgence,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Ontario businesses prep for the day they can reopen with new safety measures in place' Ontario businesses prep for the day they can reopen with new safety measures in place
Ontario businesses prep for the day they can reopen with new safety measures in place – May 12, 2020

The province is set to announce details Thursday about its plans for entering “Stage 1” of Ontario’s reopening timeline. Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday that Ontario will be reopening more low-risk workplaces, seasonal businesses and essential services.

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Last week, Ontario eased more restrictions by allowing garden centres, nurseries, hardware and supply stores to reopen. Retail stores, with a street entrance, were allowed to provide curbside pickup to customers as of Monday.

Ontario has released more than 80 safety guidelines for businesses to follow for reopening. When it comes to enforcement, Premier Ford has said they will be relying on inspectors.

— With files from Global’s Gabby Rodrigues, and The Canadian Press.

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