The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought attention to the global supply of ventilators, the medical devices that allow people experiencing difficulty breathing to receive oxygen.

Ventilator shortages are one component of Italy’s struggle to care for those who are most seriously ill. The country has been hit the hardest out of all European nations, with more than 1,800 deaths and nearly 25,000 cases. China recently supplied Italy with 40 ventilators, along with 31 tonnes of other supplies.

Italy, along with other countries, is scrambling to procure an additional supply of ventilators. Britain has asked companies including Ford, Honda and Rolls Royce to help make health equipment, including ventilators, to cope with the outbreak.

While Canada has had far fewer cases of the new virus than Britain or Italy — nearly 450 as of Tuesday — questions have been raised about the availability of ventilators in this country as well.

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