Canadian health officials said that around 1 million KN95 respirators obtained from China failed to meet federal quality standards for use against COVID-19 and so were not distributed to staff on the frontlines of the outbreak.
Eric Morrissette, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), said the KN95 masks acquired from China were deemed “unfit” for use and as a result, the federal government was unable to distribute the non-compliant masks to provinces and territories in Canada that are facing shortages amid the pandemic.
“To date, PHAC has identified approximately 1 million KN95 masks as non-compliant with specifications for health care settings,” Morrissette said in a statement, according to Canadian news outlet The Globe and Mail.
Canada’s Department of Health did not indicate whether the government would get a refund for the faulty masks, the report noted.
KN95 masks are a China-made model of the popular N95 mask used to protect frontline medical staff from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The United States, too, is vulnerable to disruption of medical supply chains that are rooted in China, though apparently to a somewhat lesser extent. According to an April 6 report from the Congressional Research Service (pdf), U.S. imports from China of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, products, and supplies amounted to 9.2 percent of all the nation’s imports of such products. America imports more of this category of products from Germany (11.3 percent) and Ireland (15.9 percent).
Still, amid a spike in worldwide demand for such products amid the pandemic, the United States has faced shortages.
“Because of China’s role as a global supplier of PPE, medical devices, antibiotics, and active pharmaceutical ingredients, reduced export from China have led to shortages of critical medical supplies in the United States,” the authors of the report noted.
“COVID-19 provides a direct learning experience—potentially more compelling than any war game or natural disaster simulation—about the direct effects and costs of a serious disruption or cutoff of critical supplies from China to the United States,” the report said.
Kyle Bass, the founder and chief investment officer of Hayman Capital Management, a Dallas-based hedge fund, said Canada’s experience with faulty, China-sourced respirators is part of a broader and common theme. Bass, who discussed the risk of America’s exposure to China-made medical supplies on an episode of “American Thought Leaders” last week, reacted to news of Canada’s respirator woes in a tweet.
“Bad respirators are TYPICAL from china. #DecoupleChina is the smartest LT path for the West. The Murderous Chinese government knowingly allowed flights from Wuhan to infect the world and now they sell faulty equipment to profiteer from their FrankenVirus,” Bass wrote.
In comments to “American Thought Leaders,” Bass said a silver lining of the pandemic-driven equipment shortages is that they have exposed the risk of reliance on China for critical goods.
“The misery that China has brought to the rest of the world with this virus has really been shining a disinfecting light on global supply chains reliance. Think about this: we have Western democracies relying almost completely on a supply chain in a totalitarian, communistic nation. It’s actually insane when you lay it out like that,” he said.