With increased testing and a better understanding of the virus deemed necessary before reopening the Canadian economy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that the federal government is spending an additional $ 1.1 billion on a national research and medical strategy for fight COVID-19.
In his remarks Thursday, Trudeau said that with the effectiveness of public health measures now in place and with Canada on the right track, “we must think not only of the coming weeks, but of the coming months”, and that will require progress in interim medical interventions to control the spread of the virus in the absence of a vaccine.
PM’s announcement includes:
An additional $ 115 million for research into vaccines and treatments;
$ 662 million for research projects into how brain and respiratory cells are affected, as well as for clinical trials, including one that “will assess the safety of potential cell therapy to reduce impacts and the severity of the acute respiratory distress associated with COVID-19 ”; and
$ 350 million for national testing, modeling, data monitoring and tracking of COVID-19 in Canada.
In addition, the federal government is creating a “COVID-19 immunity task force” which, according to Trudeau, will include a range of Canada’s best doctors and will focus on blood tests to monitor and understand immunity against this new coronavirus. Among the physicians who will lead this group are Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer, and Dr. Mona Nemer, Chief Scientific Advisor.
“They will address key questions like how many people other than the ones we have tested before have COVID-19, if you are immunized once you have it, and if so, how long it lasts” said Trudeau.
Through these serological tests, the Prime Minister is committed to testing at least one million Canadians over the next two years. He added that this would also indicate the most effective public health measures.
The new plan comes after Tam said the day before that rapid tests to detect and trace the spread of the virus, as well as those who have acquired immunity, will be essential in the meantime.
In Canada, there are more than 40,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the country has just exceeded 2,000 deaths.
Currently, Tam said, Canada needs to triple the number of COVID-19 tests performed daily to meet its target of 60,000 tests per day.
Trudeau doubled this Thursday, saying that increasing testing for the virus will be “essential” before reopening aspects of society.
Tam said she believed the known laboratory-confirmed cases were likely the “tip of the iceberg” and that serological tests for immunity would reveal the prevalence of the infection and also inform decisions about who could return to work.
“It is certainly one of the key objectives. Our laboratory works hard to validate the serological tests that are presented. Internationally, we recognize that some of them do not work, so we want to make sure that the ones we have are effective and can detect the antibody response in the Canadian population, “said Tam.
At a press conference Thursday morning, outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer voiced concerns about Health Canada’s current ability to accelerate the development of new drugs or tests, saying there are a backlog of companies awaiting approval.
“Experts have said that Canada needs to triple its daily tests before loosing the restrictions, so where is the plan to do it?” What is the government doing to improve testing and tracing? “He asked, adding that he believes Trudeau should present Canadians with a comprehensive plan by next week on how the federal government intends to get the economy going.
In a first COVID-19 aid announcement in mid-March, the federal government allocated $ 275 million to search for 47 teams across the country. This was in addition to the continuing increase in capacity for laboratory testing and health surveillance across Canada.
The government also called on Canadian life sciences companies, universities, colleges and polytechnics to play a role as well, suggesting, as in mobilizing Canadian manufacturers, that an all-terrain approach was needed to find solutions to a pandemic.
Earlier this week, offering an update on the various research initiatives underway, Trudeau said more than 500 companies have come up with innovative ideas to help Canada weather the pandemic.
The government says it has reoriented all of the country’s industrial policy to focus on fighting COVID-19. This included redefining the priorities of existing innovation and research programs and working on agreements with industry to accelerate creation and regulatory approvals to bring diagnostic test products and others to market. disease tracking technologies.