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Irving Oil retools its lubricants plant to produce hand sanitizer

Irving Oil Ltd. has retooled its blending and packaging plant in Saint John to add hand sanitizer to the production line. 

"We're all in this together," said a Facebook message from the company. "As we look to support the essential needs of our communities, we have retooled our blending and packaging facility in Saint John, NB, to add hand sanitizer to the production line."

Irving Oil did not respond to repeated attempts to get more information on Tuesday afternoon. 

In response to a question on Twitter about whether additional people would be hired to produce the sanitizer, the company responded, "Our existing workforce is working on this project."

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement that said Irving Oil was one of several Canadian companies "stepping up to fight the COVID-19 pandemic."

Premier Blaine Higgs commended the company — and others — for stepping up.

At the government's daily news briefing on Tuesday, Higgs said there are "a couple of companies ramping up to do that," while others are refitting operations to make gowns and other needed medical supplies. 

"The more that we can make locally — and provide locally — certainly the quicker access we have," said Higgs. 

Roger Cosman/CBC

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will invest $2 billion for diagnostic testing and to purchase ventilators, masks, face shields, gowns, and hand sanitizer.

"Canadian companies are answering the call to provide critical support to our health-care workers, who are on the front lines of our country's fight against COVID-19," Trudeau said in the press release. 

"As the situation continues to evolve, the Government of Canada will be there to work with Canadian industry to find solutions that will support our medical professionals and protect the health and safety of all Canadians."

According to the release, the government has signed letters of intent with five companies, including Irving Oil, to produce additional test kits, hand sanitizer, and protective apparel, including masks and gowns.

The 157,000-square-foot facility located on the Courtenay Bay Causeway produces more than 2,700 finished products, including "Irving Oil, Cobra and private label branded lubricants, chemicals and diesel exhaust fluid," according to the company's website.