ppe from china

Here's why two planes sent to China to get medical supplies came back to Canada totally empty

As Canada, like all countries, tries its best to fulfil frontline healthcare workers' need for more protective equipment (PPE) amid the COVID-19 pandemic, two cargo flights sent to secure some of the much-needed products from overseas have just come back empty.

The two planes — which Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer brought up in the House of Commons on Monday — had been sent to China to pick up planned shipments of masks and other PPE earlier this week. 

Many are now wondering why they returned without any supplies.

Prime Minister Trudeau addressed the issue in his daily COVID-19 press briefing on Tuesday, saying that a number of factors prevented the trip from being successful, including restrictions on how long international aircrafts are permitted to stay on the tarmac in China and supply chain issues.

"There are severe restrictions on the ground in China in terms of how long a plane can actually stay in their airports before having to leave whether it's full or not," Trudeau said. "And at the same time, supply lines and truck shipments to the airports are difficult and interrupted by checkpoints and quarantine measures."

He added that the federal government has been receiving and will continue to receive millions of pieces of PPE to meet provincial demands, though these two planes in particular were "forced to take off empty."

David @CochraneCBC reports 2 planes came back empty (customs back ups, international traffic jams, China's management of exports, etc) but all the #PPE equipment that was supposed to be on them are safely stored in a warehouse in Shanghaihttps://t.co/CXJKGMmU62#CdnPoli

Ottawa is also investing in Canadian manufacturers that are ramping up production to increase domestic capacity so we don't have to look to other countries for medical paraphernalia, coronavirus test kits or the like in a time of heightened global demand.

Some are speculating that this increased demand could also have potentially been a factor in the contentious empty planes.

"The PPE was bought out from under the Canadian Govt, as the planes were about to be loaded," one Twitter user theorized.

"I heard that has been happening. Trucks diverted on the tarmac to higher bidder," another said in response to the incident.

"It's always a challenge to get the PPE into Canada at a time when the global market is very very competitive for these," Trudeau stated on Tuesday, saying we're in a "competitive international environment when everyone is looking for PPE... which is why we've made significant investments in domestic capacity."

When pressed about the shipments by reporters, Trudeau said he will be continuing to follow up on the orders that were placed and not delivered upon.

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