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Explained: The US Defense Production Act, invoked to lift ventilator production

The Defense Production Act, 1950 gives the President the power to mobilise domestic industry so that the supply of essential materials and services is maintained for purposes of national defence.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: March 30, 2020 12:19:01 pm
Explained: What is the US Defense Production Act, invoked to lift ventilator production? Trump tweeted on March 24, “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.” (File photo)

On Friday, US President Donald Trump invoked the Defense (defence) Production Act in order to boost the production of ventilators as part of efforts to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. The total number of infected patients in the US has now crossed 100,000 surpassing China. T

rump tweeted on March 24, “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.”

What is the Defense Production Act?

The Defense Production Act, 1950 gives the President the power to mobilise domestic industry so that the supply of essential materials and services is maintained for purposes of national defence. For instance, by invoking this Act the President can require persons, including businesses and corporations, to undertake government contracts so that production and supply are maintained.

In the present situation, by invoking the Act, Trump has mandated General Motors to manufacture ventilators, considered crucial for those patients who develop breathing difficulties as a result of COVID-19. On Friday, Trump tweeted, “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!!!!!! @GeneralMotors @Ford”.

Why are ventilators needed for coronavirus patients?

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for ventilators has shot up in many countries. Ventilators, also described as “life support”, are not required for all COVID-19 patients. But in some patients who develop breathing difficulties due to the infection, their breathing needs to be supported by ventilators.

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Essentially, these are machines that do the breathing for the patients when they are no longer able to do it themselves. However, this is only a temporary measure in most cases, used to treat patients if they suffer from illnesses such as pneumonia, which some COVID-19 patients may develop. By using a ventilator, air is pumped into the lungs of the patients, which allows their body to rest and recover.

According to a WHO report, based on an analysis of over 55,000 laboratory-confirmed patients, 18.6 per cent of the patients with COVID-19 experienced shortness of breath. Overall, 6.1 per cent of the cases were critical, and suffered from complications that include respiratory failure, septic shock and multiple organ failure.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?

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