OTTAWA — Canadians have been coming forward in large numbers to donate blood after Canadian Blood Services warned of a possible shortage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blood donor clinics have extended their hours and put in place strict safety protocols for anyone giving blood.
"The response has been tremendous," Dr. Isra Levy, the agency's vice-president of medical affairs and innovation, said Friday.
"From our point of view, the numbers are very, very satisfying in the sense that we're able to match demand with supply. We really need to keep up that altruism that has motivated donors to come in."
Canadian Blood Services operates a national blood inventory that allows products to be regularly shifted around the country to meet hospital and patient needs.
About 400,000 of Canada's 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis.
Levy warned nearly two weeks ago that Canada was facing a critical blood shortage. Donations had dropped about 20 per cent because of concerns about the novel coronavirus.
Because of a suspension of elective surgeries, the demand for blood is also down about 15 per cent, Levy said Friday.
While things are going well now, he added, the concern is whether Canadians will continue to keep donating over the long run.
"We're going to have this challenge for many weeks to come and the implication is we're going to need our donors to really continue to show up," Levy said.
"They need to think about things not about as an urgent and immediate need for blood, but as an ongoing, pressing concern that we have about a potential for a sudden drop in inventory."
Calgary's blood donor clinic had to reduce appointments last week because of long lineups and wait times.
Donors waited behind a red line outside the clinic while checking in. Inside, chairs were placed strategically in the waiting room and every other bed was used. Health workers wiped down every donor station thoroughly between patients.
Some donors recently took to social media to discuss the importance of giving.
"First real trip out of the house in a while to Canadian Blood Services. As a former recipient, I understand first hand the importance of donors," wrote Katie Mitchell on Instagram.
"They have put great steps in place to have donors maintain social distancing requirements. So happy I wasn't rejected."
"My dad needs transfusions every three weeks so in addition to worrying about COVID-19, he's concerned about blood supply shortages," wrote Sara Jane O'Neill on Twitter.
"Please donate if you can."
Levy said some donors in Ottawa have told him that they feel they're able to make a difference when everything else in the world is out of their control.
"It's a sense of contribution in an uncertain time," he said.
"The people who are showing up at our donor collection centres, anecdotally, express a sense of satisfaction that they're able to do something for the community beyond staying at home and finding ways to fill their time."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2020
— By Bill Graveland in Calgary. Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
The Canadian Press