There Aren’t Enough Ventilators to Cope With the Coronavirus

Italy, which has nearly 30,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 2,100 deaths, is perhaps facing the gravest shortage of ventilators. In the Northeast region of Veneto, officials are looking into whether ventilators designed for animals can be used on humans, local media reported.

The government has sent about 25 engineers and other staff members from the ministry of defense to help with production of ventilators at Siare Engineering, a manufacturer near Bologna. The company has quadruped production to make up to 150 ventilators a week. It delayed deliveries to other countries like India to meet the need in Italy.

“It’s an urgent need for our country,” said Enrico Tozzi, who leads Siare’s export division. “We are completely in an emergency.”

And in Britain, where the country expects to need far more than the 5,000 ventilators now available, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday called on carmakers and other manufacturers to immediately begin helping make ventilators, a move reminiscent of the country’s mobilization to build Spitfire fighter jets during World War II. The government said it got more than 400 calls from businesses offering to help build ventilators.

The American government has considered, to some extent, a similar option. A federal report, obtained by The New York Times and dated March 13, noted that the president could invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950, which allows for the mandatory mobilization of manufacturing lines to produce key supplies.

So far, though, there have been no investments in technology to help manufacturers increase production, scant marshaling of federal resources and limited coordination to help distribute machines. Instead, it’s essentially every state for itself, which leaves manufacturers having to decide which hospitals or governments need the machines the most — and, in theory, who is willing to pay a premium.

Some industry officials said they recently had been discussing production issues with members of the White House’s coronavirus task force and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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