TORONTO – Amid ongoing concern about the personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, a new report finds federal stockpiles of the vital gear were shockingly inadequate, in the weeks before the pandemic.
Experts call it ridiculous, especially after recommendations made following the SARS outbreak well over a decade ago.
New information obtained by The Globe and Mail finds that supplies of personal protective equipment in the federally-managed emergency stockpile were only a fraction of what was needed. The outlet reports that a month before the virus forced the country to shut down, there were only 100,000 N95 respirator masks in the stockpile.
Officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada tell The Globe and Mail that the stockpile was not funded or mandated to amass significant levels of supplies.
“We likely do not have enough. I think federal governments, for decades, have been underfunding things like public health preparedness,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu has said, adding the stockpile was never meant for a pandemic of this size.
PPE includes things like gowns, face shields, gloves, N95 masks, surgical masks, and respirators.
The government has put the wheels in motion to mobilize companies to produce more PPE — many companies which aren’t even in the healthcare sector.
Canada has confirmed more than 53,000 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began. Questions have already been raised about whether the country was prepared to deal with the health crisis.
So far, the coronavirus has claimed more than 3,100 lives.