The Associate Assistant Deputy Minister of the Department of Public Works Michael Mills revealed yesterday that Canada's supply of high-quality face masks was running low, according to Blacklock's Reporter.
"It's been a very challenging environment ... Prices have gone up," said Mills to the Senate social affairs committee on Wednesday.
Among the products that have dropped in quantity are N95 masks, which Mills says are in "very limited production."
No further details were provided by Mills, though the department did say that of the 130 million N95 masks purchased from China in rush orders, only 609,000 were delivered thus far. Canada purchased the mask at a 5x markup, from $1.20 per unit to $6.
At that price, with the limited data released thus far, rush orders have cost taxpayers over half a billion dollars.
"We are working around the clock and making quick decisions to get contracts in place as fast as possible in an intensely competitive market," stated Mills. "Contracts that usually take several months to finalize are now being put into place in days if not hours."
When asked my Conservative MPs about the current status of the market for health supplies, Mills responded, saying “There are certain commodities that will continue to be challenging... Certainly the N95 masks are very limited production,” said Mills. “We’ve got about as much as we can and we continue to, if anything comes up, to try and source them.”
"We’ve had to take on some different terms and whatnot to secure those supplies but we now have a lot of that product under contract," said Mills. "It’s still challenging and we’ll continue to see where supplies are available."
Previously, Toronto had to recall more than 60,000 masks made in China due to easy tearing of the material. These masks were distributed to workers in long-term care homes. An investigation is underway to determine whether the faulty masks led to workers being exposed to coronavirus.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's top doctor, has changed her tone on whether masks should be used or not. After initially denying that masks were helpful, Tam eventually stated that masks were helpful in slowing the spread of the disease.
Yesterday, when Tam was asked whether or not the public should wear masks, Tam said that it was "recommended" that the public wear non-medical masks or facial coverings "in situations where you cannot maintain physical distancing of less than two metres."
"Some of those examples are public transport or when you’re doing certain types of retail shopping or grocery shopping, for example."
"If you’re recommending masks, you would have to make sure that people have access and be able to implement that," Tam continued.