Chinese telecommunications company Huawei is helping Canada cope with the COVID-19 pandemic by flying millions of masks to the country as hospitals struggle with the shortage of safety equipment for healthcare workers. 

The company has delivered over 1 million masks, 50,000 pairs of gloves and 30,000 goggles to Canada and continues to send more, The Globe and Mail reported this week. Huawei also plans to provide the country with six million masks out of which around 200,000 will be the N95 masks that are used by healthcare workers. The scale of donation has not been made public by Huawei, a person with the knowledge of the donation told The Globe.

“Three weeks ago, we began reaching out to provincial governments across Canada offering to donate medical masks and other supplies,” Alykhan Velshi, Huawei Canada’s vice-president of corporate affairs, told The Globe. “These are all donations. Canadian provincial government officials have helped pinpoint their areas of greatest need and readiness to distribute the masks,” 

In early February, Canada sent 16 tonnes of protective equipment to China. 

Other Chinese donors include the Bank of China, Trip.com, billionaire Jack Ma and his Alibaba Foundation, and Tencent. Those private donations amount to millions of masks and pairs of gloves and at least 100,000 protective overalls, according to a person with knowledge of the volumes, The Globe noted. 

On March 31, 2020, the Government of Canada announced a shortage of essential medical equipment and additional funding of $2 billion to support diagnostic testing and to purchase ventilators and protective personal equipment such as masks and face shields, including for bulk purchases with provinces and territories. 

“Our first priority is getting equipment and supplies into the hands of our frontline healthcare workers. This crucial task is made more challenging by the highly competitive global environment in which we are operating. Canadian industry is stepping up in a big way to support these efforts and Canadians can be assured that we are working around the clock to ensure Canada has what it needs—made at home and abroad—as we fight COVID‑19,” the Hon. Anita Anand, minister of public services and procurement, said in a press release today. 

Huawei’s donation to Canada comes as the company seeks federal approval to install 5G technology on the country’s mobile networks. Moreover, the tech giant has also sought the release of Meng Wanzhou, its chief financial officer, who was arrested in Vancouver in 2018 on fraud charges related to alleged violations of sanctions against Iran.