Ottawa Is Criticized For Sending 16 Tonnes Of Protective Equipment To China Last Month To Help Battle Coronavirus

Ottawa Is Criticized For Sending 16 Tonnes Of Protective Equipment To China Last Month To Help Battle Coronavirus

In an effort last month to help China battle the Coronavirus, Canada’s Global Affairs Department sent 16 tonnes of protective equipment to Beijing despite the World Health Organization (WHO) warning countries to prepare for possible spread in their own countries. Critics questioned the decision since Canada also needed the supplies as well—the Canadian government stood by its decision to help China combat the virus though. In early February, the Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne stated that “Canada has deployed approximately 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment, such as clothing, face shields, masks, goggles and gloves” to China. The purpose as noted and exclaimed by the International Development Minister Karina Gould agreed with Champagne—“personal protective equipment is essential to prevent and limit the spread of virus.”

On January 30, WHO had already outlined and established that the pandemic is a “public health emergency of international concern” and “it is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country.” The UN Agency also made this statement to warn countries—“all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation, and case management.” A few days later, the WHO made predictions that the virus would also affect the chain of protective equipment used.

Amir Attaran, a professor at University of Ottawa’s school of epidemiology and public and its faculty of law, was surprised that Global Affairs sent personal protective equipment (PPE) to China. He said, “It was absolutely certain in early February that we would need this equipment. This decision went beyond altruism into high negligence and incompetence because Canada did not, and does not, have surplus equipment to spare.” The supplies sent to China is in high demand in Canada. Adam Austen, deputy director of communications for Mr. Champagne, defended Global Affairs decision to gift China in effort to cooperate and eliminate the virus. Austen stated, “Global pandemics require global co-operation. After all, pandemics know no borders. Co-operation is vital to ensuring the health and safety of people around the world. This includes protecting people here in Canada, as support of this kind can help slow the spread of the virus. In early February, when the spread of COVID-19 was primarily limited to China, Canada facilitated sending equipment there through the Canadian Red Cross to the Red Cross Society of China.” He acknowledged that China companies are also giving supplies to Canada as well—“As more Canadians have become affected by the spread of this virus, we have welcomed donations from Chinese companies, including CTrip. Canada will continue to work to ensure that we have the equipment we need to fight this virus—and that our partners do, too.”

The PPE sent by Canadian Red Cross and the government to China includes 50,118 fare shields, 1,101 masks, 1,802 pairs of goggles, 36,425 medical coveralls, 200,000 nitrile gloves, and 3,000 aprons. It’s not known if China will return the favor and even The Globe and Mail asked the Chinese Embassy if they would donate masks, medical ventilators, and COVID-19 test kits, but the embassy didn’t reply.

Jack Lindsay, chair of applied disaster and emergency studies at Brandon University in Manitoba, said that the federal government’s plans for emergencies lacked the cooperation of organizational effectiveness. He said that emergency management wasn’t even organized nor planned until a disaster struck and the federal government doesn’t have a branch that specializes in emergency management. Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said there wasn’t common sense in donating supplies to Beijing when the threat of the Coronavirus was spreading in Canada. 

Members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce are growing more worried about restrictions countries puts on exports of medical equipment. The European Union as of March 15, has put new rules on exports of PPE and India has banned 26 ingredients dealing with the pharmaceutical companies. Information publicly released to the public by Global Trade Alert also said, as of March 21, 54 world governments have imposed restriction guidelines on the exportation of medical supplies.



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