Officials across the country this week warned that equipment shortfalls are placing health-care workers and vulnerable Canadians at growing risk of exposure to the virus.
A lack of supply and surging demand have sent prices soaring for goods from gowns to gloves, swabs and face shields. “One government had placed an order for 200 million masks from China. And what this did overnight to the price of masks was to treble them,” Evenett said.
Air cargo rates have also shot up as airlines park planes – which often carry freight as well as passenger luggage – due to plummeting travel demand. “I would say that they’ve more than doubled, even tripled,” said Gary Hopkins, managing director of U.S.-based Air Charter Service’s Toronto office.
A cargo flight between Beijing and Vancouver carrying 100,000 kilograms in freight might typically cost $300,000, but is more likely to go for $800,000 this week, Hopkins said.
Ottawa faces criticism for sending 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to China in February
Canada’s department of Global Affairs shipped 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to China last month to help Beijing fight the novel coronavirus, an effort that it undertook even after the World Health Organization had warned countries to prepare for possible cases.
Critics are questioning the wisdom of exporting gear overseas just weeks before it was sorely needed in Canada. The Canadian government, however, says the shipment was an effort to collaborate with China in the fight against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.