Canada working to produce up to 30,000 ventilators domestically: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is teaming up with a handful of Canadian companies to produce 30,000 ventilators — a critical piece of equipment in the battle against COVID-19.

Announcement comes after U.S.-based 3M agreed to sell N95 masks to Canada

This ventilator at Humber River Hospital is one of about 1,300 across Ontario. Companies are being asked to switch gears and help manufacture the equipment. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is teaming up with a handful of Canadian companies to produce up to 30,000 ventilators — a critical piece of equipment in the battle against COVID-19.

"To keep our frontline workers safe and care for Canadians with COVID-19, we need a sustainable, stable supply of these products, and that means making them at home," he said today during his daily news briefing outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa. 

Trudeau said the government is working with Thornhill Medical, CAE, Ventilators for Canadians and a group led by StarFish Medical to produce the 30,000 machines. He did not say when they'll be ready.

WATCH: Ventilators 'extremely important,' even if they're not all needed: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he hopes the health care system won't need all of the 30,000 ventilators to be produced in Canada. 1:06

The Public Health Agency of Canada says there are about 5,000 ventilators spread across the country — a number the federal government is looking to increase sixfold.

Trudeau said he hopes Canada won't need all 30,000 ventilators.

"We need to be ready for any and every circumstance. The opportunity to make sure we have ventilators available is extremely important. We certainly hope we won't be needing all those ventilators," he says.

"If we end up making more ventilators than Canada needs because Canadians continued ... social distancing, continued to follow [the] best health advice, that'll be great news and we will have ventilators to share with other countries that are facing more difficult circumstances. For us, doing more right now, doing quicker right now, is really the only option."

Ventilators coming ASAP, says company

Baylis Medical president Kris Shah and his team are responsible for making 10,000 of those ventilators in partnership with Ventilators for Canada, based on an open-source design from Medtronic.

He said they're already working to get the machines to hospital as soon as possible.

"We're certainly hoping to enable these to get made in the fastest way possible. But it's not a matter of days, it's a matter of few weeks to get these going, since they're very complex machines," Shah said. 

Watch: Freeland says American PPE shipments from 3M 'will continue unimpeded':

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Public Services Minister Anita Anand spoke with reporters on Tuesday 2:03

"We realize it's a current urgency and we have mobilized a small army of folks to enable this to get going, and I can honestly say there's a groundswell of support from all around."

He said the company is proud to be called on during this crisis moment, although he hopes that not every ventilator coming out of his factories will be used on a patient.

'It's like buying car insurance ... you're happy when you don't use it," he said.

Trudeau said the government is also working with Canadian astrophysicist and Nobel Prize winner Art McDonald, whose team of scientists is trying to come up with an easier process for making ventilators.

Masks, hand sanitizer delivered 

Canada and other countries have been jostling behind the scenes to avoid a situation like the one in Italy, where doctors have been forced to make grim decisions about which patients to save because there aren't enough breathing machines to help all of the critically ill patients.

The ventilator announcement comes on the heels of an announcement by 3M that it has struck a deal with the U.S. government to allow the export of N95 masks to Canada.

Watch: 30,000 ventilators to be produced in Canada: Trudeau:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is teaming up with a handful of Canadian companies to produce up to 30,000 ventilators. 1:47

The deal came after Canadian officials worked over the weekend to reverse the decision by the United States to invoke the Defense Production Act to force the Minnesota-based company to prioritize orders from the U.S. government for N95 masks — also called particulate respirators — at the expense of foreign orders.

However, it remains unclear what this deal means for exports of other critically needed equipment, such as gowns, gloves and ventilators.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada received eight million surgical masks from China on Monday and is is expecting more deliveries from that country in the coming days.

She said Canada has found sources for more than 230 million surgical masks, and over 16 million have been delivered to date.

Canada also has ordered 113,000 litres of hand sanitizer, most of which is expected to be delivered this month.

Roughly 20,000 litres of hand sanitizer have been received in the last 24 hours and officials are expecting another 20,000 litres this week.

With files from the Canadian Press

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