Canada: One million masks purchased from China are below standard

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Canada’s public health authority says around one million KN95 masks acquired from China failed to meet federal COVID-19 standards for use by frontline health professionals.

The KN95 is a Chinese model similar to the N95, which is a crucial type of personal protective equipment used to defend nurses, doctors and other health workers in the fight against COVID-19.

Eric Morrissette, a spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said as a result of this, the Canadian government did not dispense the non-complying masks to provinces and territories.

The failure of these masks to meet Canadian requirements is yet another challenge for the country as it fights to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies.

Canada has authorised the KN95 for use as part of the COVID-19 response, but individual shipments are being inspected.

China has become the source of around 70 percent of Canada’s imports of PPE, with much of the rest coming from the US, Britain and Switzerland, POLITICO, a US publication, quoted on a senior Canadian source.

The international race for medical gear, fuelled by shortages around the world, has led countries to connect with new suppliers and manufacturers, Morrissette said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, he added, has been verifying the quality of purchased and donated supplies to ensure they meet federal technical specifications for COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said two planes sent to China to pick up shipments of needed medical products were forced to return to Canada on Monday empty.

Meanwhile, efforts are on to boost local production of medical supplies in Canada.

Jerry Dias, Unifor’s national president, announced on Friday that its workers will work with General Motors to begin manufacturing masks for health workers and for Canadians.

“Unifor members in Oshawa are highly skilled and proud to step up and make whatever our country needs to get through this pandemic,” Dias said.

“The fact that Unifor members will help GM produce as many as a million fabric masks a month, for Health Canada at cost, is an example of what we can do when we work together.”

The statement added that 50 Unifor members are expected to begin this work in a few weeks, working at the Oshawa facility in two shifts.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy.