Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadian officials are still in talks with U.S. officials about reports of medical supplies being blocked from entering Canada as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen.
In his daily media briefing outside Rideau Cottage on Monday, Trudeau faced questions about comments made earlier in the day by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that the U.S. blocked a vital shipment of medical masks and supplies from entering the province on Sunday.
Trudeau would not confirm that the shipment was blocked but the report from Ford comes following a statement from medical supply company 3M last week that the White House had ordered it to stop shipping N95 respirators to Canada and Latin America.
“We are working very closely with all provinces and monitoring the levels of personal protective equipment and the challenges they’re facing,” Trudeau said.
“We continue to have productive and positive conversations with the United States emphasizing for them that health-care supplies and workers across the border are very much a two-way street.”
He added that Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne spoke about the matter with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday morning.
“We expect those supplies to be delivered,” Trudeau said.
A federal government official speaking on background told Global News they are not aware of the U.S. blocking any federal shipments, but noted that most federal supply orders are coming from China.
Coronavirus outbreak: Ford calls it ‘unacceptable’ for Trump to order 3M to stop exporting N95 masks to Canada
The comments come after Ford said in an interview with City News that the U.S. had blocked a shipment of three million medical masks from coming into the province on Sunday.
“We had three million masks stopped at the border this weekend coming up to Canada. That’s unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable that they’re doing this,” Ford later told Global News.
“Hopefully we’re going to work through it and get an exemption for Canada.”
As a result, Ford said the province now expects to run out of masks and other personal protective equipment for healthcare workers next week.
Ford and provincial health professionals shared modelling on Friday of how hard the coronavirus could hit Ontarians over the next two years.
That modelling suggests 1,600 Ontarians could be dead by the end of the month, with between 3,000 to 15,000 dead within 18 months to two years.
Ford used the numbers to urge Ontarians to stay in their homes and practice strict physical distancing.
The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 1.2 million people worldwide and killed 70,356.
In Canada, there are 15,496 confirmed cases and 280 deaths so far.