The United States is ready to supply a large number of ventilators needed by its friends and allies in their fight against the Coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump said on Friday.
Having ramped up the production of ventilators and other medical equipment required inside the US to treat the large number of people infected with the novel Coronavirus, Donald Trump said his administration will be distributing those throughout the world to other countries.
President Trump said when he spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been tested positive for the novel Coronavirus, the first thing that the PM asked him for help was ventilators.
“Boris Johnson was asking for ventilators today. Unfortunately, he tested positive. And that’s a terrible thing, but he’s going to be great. I’m sure he’s going to be totally great. But they want ventilators. Italy wants ventilators, Spain wants ventilators, Germany wants ventilators,” he said.
“They’re all calling for ventilators. Well, we’re going to make a lot of ventilators and we’ll take care of our needs, but we’re also going to help other countries,” said the President as he announced that in the next 100 days, the US will be making more than 100,000 ventilators.
Responding to a question, Donald Trump said there is a very good chance that the US might not need that many.
“I think frankly there is a great chance that we are not going to need that many. There are a lot of other people who are going to need them and we have countries all over the world that are friends of ours and we will help them,” he said.
“We are in a position to do things that other countries can’t, so we have sort of an interesting position. We can make them because we are going to be making over 100,000 pretty quickly so we can make them and if we donate them, that’s okay because we can help Italy and UK, especially Boris Johnson. I mean when I say how are you feeling and the first thing Boris said to me is we need ventilators,” President Trump said.
On Friday, Trump invoked special defence powers to force auto giant General Motors to make ventilators urgently needed to treat Coronavirus patients after the company had backtracked on earlier promises and haggled over prices.
Announcing on Friday that he was using the Defence Production Act (DPA) against GM, Trump said: “We thought we had a deal for 40,000 ventilators and, all of a sudden, the 40,000 came down to 6,000. And then they talked about a higher price than we were discussing, so I didn’t like it.”
The availability of ventilators has become the touchstone of the nation’s preparedness to meet the pandemic as the US became the country with the most cases, recording 104,463 confirmed cases by Friday night, with 1,706 deaths.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and others had repeatedly asked Trump to use the DPA to ramp up production of ventilators and other sorely needed medical supplies.
But Trump had resisted their demands saying that companies were voluntarily complying with the requests and did not want to take the “socialist” approach of forcing governmental controls on companies and instead would rely on voluntary measures.
He changed his mind on Friday during the dispute with quantity and prices with GM, which he criticised for shutting down a plant in the US and moving operations abroad while foreign auto companies were expanding.
Illinois Governor Jay Pritzker, a Democrat, welcomed the invoking of the DPA calling it “terrific.”
Meanwhile, in a generous gesture amidst the crisis, Trump had also on Friday announced $174 million financial assistance to 64 countries including $2.9 million to India to help them fight the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
This is in addition to the $100 million aid announced by the US in February.
The funding is for 64 of the most at-risk countries facing the threat of the global pandemic.
The US State Department said it is providing $2.9 million to help the Indian government prepare laboratory systems, activate case finding and event-based surveillance, and support technical experts for response and preparedness, and more.
“This builds upon the foundation of more than $1.4 billion in health assistance out of the more than $2.8 billion in US assistance for India over the last 20 years,” the State Department said.
(With agency inputs)