Trump orders ‘time wasting’ General Motors to make ventilators

Trump orders 'time wasting' General Motors to make ventilators
Trump invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act, which allows a president to force companies to make products for national defence. Source: Reuters
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Daily US Times, Washington: US President Donald Trump has invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act and ordered giant car manufacturing company General Motors to make ventilators.

The Defense Production Act allows a president to force companies to make products for national defense. Before ordering GM to make ventilators, he attacked the company’s chief executive for ‘wasting time’.

The president said that “GM was wasting time” and action was needed to save American lives.

Coronavirus situation is getting worse day by day in the US, where 104,000 cases have been confirmed so far, the most in the world. More than 1,700 people have died from the virus in the US, but the death toll still lags far behind Italy and China.

Donald Trump previously said defense order was not necessary, because companies were voluntarily converting their operations to help fight the spread of coronavirus.

But he changed his course on Friday, saying: “The virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.”

Earlier the day, he attacked GM in a tweet and complaint that the company lowered the number of ventilators they had promised to deliver from 40,000 to 6,000 and had wanted “top dollar”.

He also attacked the chief executive of GM, Mary Barra, saying things are “always a mess” with her.

On Friday, General Motors said it can build at least 10,000 ventilators per month from April.

What’s the background row?

GM has been working with Ventec Life Systems, a Seattle-based medical device manufacturer, to make ventilators at the car maker’s plant in Kokomo, Indiana.

Associated Press reported that GM’s factory in Michigan, Warren, will be used to make surgical masks.

The White House had been due to announce the joint venture between the two companies on Wednesday until Trump administration officials reportedly baulked at the $1bn bill to taxpayers.

On Friday’s White House press briefing, the president said: “We’re not looking to be ripped off on price.”

Mr Trump also criticized GM and asked ”immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio.”

The car-maker sold the factory last November, axing 1,400 jobs in a key presidential swing state.

Why the need for ventilators?

Amid the respiratory illness outbreak, the medical machines that keep patients breathing are much in demand. The illness in the most serious cases attacks the lungs.

Governors from many states are urging the federal government to supply much-needed ventilators. New York has requested 30,000 ventilators, but Mr Trump described it as “high” estimate.

Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor, fired back, insisting the request was based on “facts and on data”.

On Friday, Louisiana’s governor said New Orleans could run out of ventilators by 2 April.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine has estimated that 960,000 intensive care patients will require a ventilator at some point during the US coronavirus outbreak.