Elon Musk’s Offer to Donate COVID-19 Ventilators Draws Unexpected Interest

Elon Musk offers to send free COVID-19 ventilators worldwide. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

On Tuesday, Elon Musk announced on Twitter that Tesla, which recently started building hospital ventilators for treating severe COVID-19 patients and keeps a stock of ventilators purchased from elsewhere, would send some extra “FDA-approved” units to anywhere in the world as long as the country lies within Tesla’s delivery regions—all for free.

“Only requirement is that the vents are needed immediately for patients, not stored in a warehouse,” the Tesla CEO tweeted.

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The offer quickly drew the attention of ambassadors of foreign countries who flocked to the social media site to write “Dear Elon” messages imploring for the life-saving machines.

One of the first responders was Ukraine. “Dear Elon, Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe with population nearly 40 million citizens,” Kiev’s Washington embassy replied to Musk’s tweet on Wednesday. “The pandemic situation in Ukraine is approaching its peak, April is going to be the hardest. People in hospitals need ventilators. We are ready to cooperate! Dyakuyemo! (Thank you!)”

The eastern European country’s former health minister, Ulana Suprun, wrote a separate response under Musk’s tweet, “Ukraine is in dire need of ventilators. We have only 3500 in the ICUs and we have a population of 37 million. Please help us!”

As of Thursday morning, Ukraine has reported 804 COVID-19 cases and 20 related deaths.

Citizens and doctors from Africa also jumped on the waiting list. “We need these ventilators as our government is not only wicked and wasteful but also shameless,” a self-proclaimed doctor from Nigeria tweeted to the Tesla CEO on Thursday morning. “This may just be our last hope in combating the effects of this virus.”

“Dear Elon, we need as many respirators as you can send us in Nigeria, [or] any other African country that asks,” wrote another Twitter user describing himself as a Nigerian citizen. “In Nigeria, we currently have 163 active cases, some of who are in critical condition.”

Musk and Tesla haven’t responded to any of these requests yet. Both Ukraine and Nigeria are within Tesla’s delivery region.

Since last month, Tesla has donated a few thousand ventilators, including some 1,000 units Musk said he purchased from “an oversupply” in China, and tens of thousands of face masks and gloves to U.S. hospitals. Yet, states across the country still face a gaping shortage of medical supplies as COVID-19 cases skyrocket.

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, the world’s current pandemic epicenter, said last week that his state alone needed up to 40,000 ventilators to cope with the soaring demand. Seeing the urgent need, state and federal governments have been scrambling to distribute reserve stockpile in batches of several hundreds. Manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, plan to build more of these machines using their automobile production capacity to relieve the shortage.

 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the ventilators Elon Musk offered were made by Tesla. 

Elon Musk’s Offer to Donate COVID-19 Ventilators Draws Unexpected Interest