COVID-19: Canadian and provincial governments rushed to build new supply chains amid fears over N95


CALGARY – With fears mounting that Canadian medical personnel may face a shortage of masks, gloves and gowns in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Canada’s federal and provincial governments have spent a month securing new channels of essential protective and medical equipment.

The first of many flights from Shanghai on Saturday arrived on a Cargojet Inc. aircraft carrying more than 80,000 pounds of personal protective equipment (PPE) in Hamilton, Ontario.

Cargojet, based in Mississauga, had not previously flown to China, but will make a new supply of medical supplies for the federal government, two for the government of Alberta and two for the government of British Columbia while New supply chains for medical equipment were established during the pandemic.

“We could consider going from four to five flights a week on average to and from China in the next three to four weeks,” said Ajay Virmani, president and CEO of Cargojet, who added that governments and businesses across Canada have worked tirelessly over the past month to establish new supply routes for Canadian medical supplies.

Virmani said great effort to obtain additional PPE for medical personnel began long before US President Donald Trump ordered 3M, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, to stop exporting N95 masks to foreign countries, including Canada. At that time, Alberta and Ontario raised the possibility of a mask shortage.

The US government has authorized the export of N95 respirators to Canada, but the situation has highlighted the need for new supplies for hospitals, clinics and the elderly.

Cargojet, based in Mississauga, had not previously flown to China, but will run a new medical supplies race for the federal government, two for the Government of Alberta and two for the Government of British Columbia.


Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government had chartered Cargojet and Air Canada flights to deliver the millions of masks needed to fight the virus and stressed the importance of workers logistics. “I want to take a moment to thank everyone, that you work in a warehouse, that you fly the aircraft of part of the ground crew,” said Trudeau.

Establishing these new supply chains has been long and arduous work for governments and businesses, said Virmani.

“There is tremendous pressure on buyers to have boots on the ground in China because most of the Americans are beating us. They buy everything and anything in sight, “said Virmani, noting that a bidding war was underway for essential medical supplies.

It took a month of dedicated work, but Canadian governments have established or strengthened channels in China to source medical PPE, winning auction wars as the pandemic continues and countries around the world fight to stock up.

Businesses, on the other hand, are required to adhere to very strict protocols when flying inside and outside of China, the country where the Covid-19 epidemic began in the city of Wuhan end 2019.

Virmani said his company has identified a team of 10 to 12 pilots who will make the trips to and from Shanghai. Upon arrival at the airport, Chinese government officials conduct a coronavirus test, then escort the pilots to a hospital where they are to rest for 15 hours pending the results of their test.

If the pilots are positive, they will have to stay in China in isolation for 14 days.

Additional precautions have been taken to ensure that critical supplies are shipped across borders during the global pandemic, logistics workers are kept safe.

“At the end of the day, the supply chain is like a human chain. If the supply chain is going to fail, it’s because of the human chain. There are so many precautions here – it’s like preparing to go to war, “said Virmani, adding that his team members wear masks, gloves and sometimes face shields while they work.

In the coming week, Virmani said his crews will make the return trip to Shanghai to obtain additional supplies for Alberta and British Columbia.

“We have recently signed contracts totaling more than $ 200 million and these contracts will include tens of millions of gowns, millions of N95 masks, tens of millions of procedural masks and many other products,” said the Minister of Alberta Health Tyler Shandro at a press conference on Saturday. adding that the supplies came from “companies around the world.”

Shandro said the provincial government had increased the number of intensive care and intensive care beds and ventilators in the province to the point that it had “more than enough to meet projected demand for hospital services during the peak virus “.

As a result, Shandro said the province is able to “look beyond our borders and help provinces that may be in trouble.”

The province has announced that it is sending 250,000 N95 masks, 2.5 million procedural masks, 15 million gloves, 87,000 goggles and 50 respirators to Ontario, and a similar number of masks and gloves to Quebec and 250,000 N95 masks in British Columbia.

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