US President Donald Trump has ordered General Motors to make ventilators for coronavirus patients after attacking the car giant’s chief executive.
He invoked the Korean War-era Defence Production Act, which allows a president to force companies to make products for national defence.
Mr Trump said that “GM was wasting time” and action was needed to save American lives.
The US has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country.
Mr Trump had previously said the order was not necessary, because companies were voluntarily converting their operations to help fight the spread of coronavirus, which has now sickened over 100,000 Americans.
But on Friday he said in a statement issuing the order: “The virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.”
Earlier in the day he took to Twitter to complain: “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.”
On Twitter, he criticised GM chief executive Mary Barra by name, saying things are “always a mess” with her at the helm of the Detroit-based auto manufacture.
GM has been working with medical device manufacturer Ventec Life Systems, to build ventilators at the GM factory in Kokoma, Indiana.
GM’s factory in Warren, Michigan, will be used to make surgical masks, the Associated Press reported.
The White House had been due to announce the joint venture between the two companies on Wednesday until Trump administration officials baulked at the $1bn bill to taxpayers.
Mr Trump took to Fox News on Thursday night to downplay the need for thousands of ventilators.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said, a figure New York’s governor is requesting.
“You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators,” said the US president.
“And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'”
What’s happening in New York?
The state has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 crisis in the US, with over 7,000 new Covid-19 cases announced on Friday alone by Governor Andrew Cuomo. There are a total of 44,000 patients thus far, and the death toll has climbed to 519, up from 385.
Mr Cuomo again emphasised a need for more medical supplies, saying the state’s peak is expected to come in 21 days and there is still a shortage of thousands of hospital beds and ventilators.
Mr Cuomo also fired back at Mr Trump’s comments on Thursday night, where the president argued that New York was exaggerating its need for 30,000 ventilators.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion – but I don’t operate here on opinion,” Mr Cuomo said.
“I operate on facts and on data and on numbers and on projections. All the projections say you could have an apex needing 140,000 beds and about 40,000 ventilators.”