Ottawa Provides Aid To Boost Overdue COVID-19 Tests

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Canada has the capacity to test 60,000 people – mobile tests in Montreal seen here on May 19, 2020 – per day for COVID-19, but on average only 28,000.

Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press

The federal government is offering to help the provinces with COVID-19 testing and contact tracing while Ontario and Quebec are struggling to reach their goals while their economies reopen.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that COVID-19 remains a serious health threat and that testing and tracing the contacts of infected people is essential to slow its spread. He added that Ottawa also plans to help the provinces and territories share the data they have collected on the number of cases.

“In order for people to move freely and return to normal life, we need to improve our ability to quickly locate and isolate the virus,” said Trudeau.

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“The next phase of our collaborative efforts involves testing, contact tracing and data collection. And I told the Prime Ministers that the federal government is here to support, facilitate and fund this important work. “

Some 240 employees from Health Canada and the Department of National Defense are already helping Ontario find the contacts. Ottawa also funded testing efforts across the province by purchasing reagents and other supplies.

Statistics Canada also offered 1,700 interviewers who can make 20,000 calls a day to help find contacts, said Mr. Trudeau. Canada has the capacity to test 60,000 people a day for COVID-19, but on average only 28,000 people.

Cases in Ontario have trended upward, and the province reported 441 new cases on Friday – the highest number since May 8 – as tests this week reached just half of the 20,000 capacity province test. The Quebec government announced on May 1 that within a week, it would double its test volume to 14,000 a day – but is struggling to reach that level.

Provincial health workers test for coronavirus (COVID-19) on residents of the remote First Nations community of Gull Bay, Ontario, Canada, April 27, 2020. Photo taken April 27, 2020. REUTERS / David Jackson

DAVID JACKSON / Reuters

Andrew Morris, medical director of the antimicrobial management program at the Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto, said that Ottawa’s offer to help with contact tracing was complicated by the question of the jurisdiction of the public health, but that it should have arrived earlier.

“The bottom line is that we need it. And we needed it, like yesterday, “he said. “There is no reason why we could not have had development in the past two months of software and applications to facilitate this process so that there is a way to standardize it. “


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Premier Doug Ford On Friday Said “Any Help Is Appreciated” From The Federal Government And He Continued To Encourage People With Symptoms Of COVID-19 To Visit 144 Assessment Centers of the province to get tested.

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“We will continue to focus on tracing and following up on these cases. But the whole country is right now, “he said.

Ford said he and other provincial premiers had discussed using a phone application to track contacts, but added that confidentiality is “very important”. Health Minister Christine Elliott said that with contact tracing, the province estimates that it has been able to reach 92% of the people it needs to find in 24 hours, but that there is “some room to do better. “

The Premier has said Ontario will expand its screening efforts this weekend to focus on homes for the aged and asymptomatic and symptomatic health care workers. The province is also investigating potential “hot spots”, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, and Ford said he wants to test truckers, taxi drivers, auto workers and others in the manufacturing sector.

Health worker Anushka Caroff greets people on a COVID-19 mobile test bus on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press

Friday, the Deputy Premier of Quebec, Geneviève Guilbault, told reporters that the province would not refuse any aid. Quebec’s national director of public health, Horacio Arruda, said that the province has almost reached its screening targets, but could benefit from additional resources. “We have to be ready for the summer, we have to be ready for the exhaustion of people, we have to be ready for the next wave. “

Quebec officials contacted about 500 of 1,700 Statistics Canada interviewers, said Dr. Arruda.

Quebec led the way among the provinces by gradually eliminating the blocking of coronaviruses. For a while his number of tests stagnated below 10,000. “I can’t accept this. I am not happy, I told the people concerned, “said Quebec Premier François Legault on May 13.

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On Wednesday, the province was able to test 12,654 people. Quebec officials blamed the low attendance at public screening clinics for the small number. But some have complained about obstacles when trying to gain control.

Kristy-Lyn Kemp, a licensed practical nurse, cared for patients with COVID-19 at Residence Herron, a nursing home for the elderly severely affected by the crisis. Because she was starting a new job at another establishment, she tried to be tested in early May, but was refused because she had no symptoms. She tried again, saying that she had a fever and a cough. It has been tested positive. “I can’t believe I had to lie to get tested,” she said on Facebook.

Globe Health columnist André Picard examines the complex problems of reopening schools and businesses after the coronavirus closes. He says that whatever happens when the provinces reopen, a second wave of COVID-19-related illnesses is looming in the fall. André spoke via Instagram Live with Madeleine White from the Globe.

Subscribe to Coronavirus Update Information Bulletin to read essential news, features and explanations about coronaviruses written by Globe journalists.

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