Donald Trump has criticised car-manufacturing giant General Motors, claiming it has cut the number of ventilators it said it could provide for coronavirus patients.
In a tweet, the US president wrote: “As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed ventilators, ‘very quickly’.
“Now they are saying it will only be 6,000, in late April, and they want top dollar.”
The US now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and it has been scrambling to find enough breathing machines to treat growing numbers of COVID-19 patients.
Car giants General Motors and Ford have teamed with ventilator makers to produce more of the life-saving devices.
But Mr Trump has called for General Motors to “start making ventilators, now”, suggesting he could invoke the Defence Production Act to force the company to make them.
He wrote: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”
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General Motors said in a statement it will be building ventilators with Ventec Life Systems, a Seattle-based company, and will help Ventec ramp up production.
The company said its teams “have been working tirelessly” to produce ventilators.
“Retooling is underway and we are poised to deliver the first ventilators next month with capacity of more than 10,000 monthly,” it added.
“We know that there is a global back-order of critical care ventilators. We’re committed to doing every thing we can to help – including donating our resources at cost to support the fight against COVID-19.”
Mary Barra, the chief executive of GM, said the car maker’s teams have “moved mountains to find real solutions to save lives and fight the pandemic”.
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Meanwhile, Ford is working with GE Health Care to increase production and plans to manufacture a simplified ventilator design starting next month.
“Ford is pulling out all the stops to quickly and safely provide vitally needed equipment for patients, first responders and healthcare workers,” the company said.
Toyota Motor Corp said it was “finalising agreements to begin working with at least two companies that produce ventilators and respirators to help increase their capacity”.
In New York, the centre of the virus outbreak in the US, state governor Andrew Cuomo has made a plea for 30,000 ventilators.
The state has reported 100 more deaths in one day, accounting for almost a third of the 1,300 fatalities nationwide in the US.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday night, Mr Trump questioned whether hospitals were exaggerating the number of ventilators needed.
“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he said.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you’re going to major hospitals sometimes, they’ll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they’re saying, ‘can we order 30,000 ventilators?'”