As healthcare workers around the world face shortages of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, an American medical-device manufacturer says the U.S. president has requested that it cease exporting its N95 masks to other countries, including Canada.
On April 2, U.S. President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to require companies to prioritize the production of ventilators and masks to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minnesota-based manufacturing company 3M issued a news release today (April 3) stating that the U.S. administration requested the company to halt any exports of U.S.–made respirators to Canada and Latin America.
“There are, however, significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators,” 3M stated.
3M went on to warn what the potential repercussions could be as a result of this action.
“Ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done. If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease. That is the opposite of what we and the Administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek.”
Trump tweeted on April 2 that the U.S. federal government “hit 3M hard” after discovering “what they were doing with their masks” and warned that there would be a “big price to pay”.
At his daily press briefings in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told media today (April 3) that the move was a “mistake” and could hurt Americans as much as others.
Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford vowed his province would work towards becoming independent of American sources for these supplies.
“We may be small when it comes to population but we are giants in manufacturing,” he stated on Twitter today. “As long as I’m Premier, we will no longer rely on others for these essential medical goods.”
At the daily B.C. COVID-19 update news conference, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix took a different approach by stating that Canada needs to convince the U.S. that this action is wrong for both Americans and Canadians and that we need to advance together for collective benefit.
“What we need to do, it seems to me, is to support the prime minister, to support our political leaders, in seeing that actions that don’t make sense for Americans and don’t make sense for Canadians are not pursued, and so I think we should make those efforts rather than contributing and making the problem worse and going tit for tat,” he said. “We shouldn’t respond with retaliation, we should respond by insisting that we work together because we are genuinely as a whole world in this together and I think the kind of parochial action such as this…is not consistent with what we need to do as a society.”
He also pointed out how the medical state of the pandemic in the U.S. has a direct connection to what happens north of the border.
“Part of the reason we have challenges in British Columbia is because there were challenges in Washington state, that COVID-19 doesn’t know borders, and we want our American friends to do well, we want their response to COVID-19 to be effective, and it needs to be effective,” he explained.
He advised that Canada should avoid any reactionary stance.
“The response I don’t think to these action is to imitate them,” he said. “The response to these actions is to respond based on the science, based on effectiveness, and based on who we are as Canadians.”
3M Canada president Penny Wise explained in a statement on her company's website that the company does not manufacture respirators in Canada but had doubled the amount of respirators imported into the country during the first three months of this year.