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Canadian businesses are worried about getting PPE — so where can they get it?

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Most Canadian businesses say they require personal protective equipment (PPE) to open up during the coronavirus pandemic — and some are anxious about obtaining enough supply, according to Statistics Canada.

A survey of nearly 3,600 businesses found that among those that need safety supplies to operate, about 32 per cent anticipate a shortage of at least one type of product in the next three months.

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A further 22 per cent of businesses were unsure about whether they would experience a lack of supplies, the survey conducted in July found.

“What’s very interesting here is there’s quite a bit of uncertainty around whether businesses expect shortage or not,” said Statistics Canada senior research analyst Steve Martin, who published an analysis of the July Personal Protective Equipment Survey on Friday.

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The figures come as provinces continue to gradually loosen restrictions on businesses put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Martin said it’s important to understand supply and demand for PPE as businesses reopen, as well as the concerns businesses have.

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“(The) ability for these businesses to resume operations in a lot of ways hinges on them being able to do so safely,” he said.

Though the number of new coronavirus cases in Canada has declined dramatically since peaking in May, some provinces, including B.C. and Alberta, are seeing an uptick in recent weeks.

As of Friday, more than 121,000 people in Canada have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and over 9,000 fatalities have been recorded.

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Overall, the survey found the majority of businesses surveyed, about 69 per cent, said they require PPE in order to operate. The most commonly needed item was hand sanitizer, followed by disinfectant and disinfecting wipes, and masks.

But the degree of uncertainty varied across product categories — with more businesses concerned or unsure about obtaining disinfectant wipes and respirator masks than other any of the other items.

As the economy gradually restarts, the number of businesses expressing confidence in their PPE supply appears to have declined somewhat.

While in the July survey nearly 46 per cent said they didn’t anticipate PPE difficulties, a different survey —  the Canadian Survey of Business Conditions — found in May that nearly 66 per cent of businesses said they didn’t expect or have difficulty obtaining PPE.

Martin cautioned, however, against directly comparing the two findings.

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Where can businesses obtain PPE?

PPE has arrived in Canada by the planeload in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Domestic production has also ramped up dramatically to meet the surge in demand, with some businesses switching gears entirely to create supplies to aid hospitals, care homes and essential workers.

In March, the federal government put out a call to manufacturers to help address the need. More than 26,000 companies responded, and submissions are now closed.

As of mid-July, companies have received $5.8 million for PPE-related contracts.

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Governments have set up online resources to help businesses in their search for PPE.

The federal government has a national COVID-19 supply hub for buyers and sellers. Most provinces have also set up online directories to connect businesses with manufacturers.

In Ontario, for example, 799 companies are listed as suppliers across seven product categories — masks, sanitation, eye protection, gowns and coveralls, gloves, sneeze guards and digital technologies/apps.

The Ontario page provides contact information for each supplier and also contains information on how to report price gouging.

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–With files from the Canadian Press