Hajdu: sidelining the pandemic alert system is an “administrative” decision

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OTTAWA – Health Minister Patty Hajdu has said decision to sideline intelligence network that informs Canada of disease outbreak response was an “administration” by the Health Agency public in Canada and that no one was involved politically. Hajdu ordered a review of the decision this week, after a Globe and Mail investigation reported in late July that the research unit, the Global Public Health Network (GPHIN), had been silenced the last year.

“No one at the political level knew he had been sidelined,” Hajdu told CTV Power Play host Evan Solomon during Thursday’s episode.

“It was an administrative decision, taken by the Public Health Agency of Canada and by the leader of the agency at the time who decided that it was better for the information network to concentrate its efforts. on more national issues and national concerns. ”

The GPHIN, which is managed by the Civil Protection and Emergency Response Center of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), was established in the late 1990s in collaboration with the Organization World Health Organization to “rapidly detect, identify, assess, prevent and mitigate threats to human health. ”

Hajdu said that when she became health minister, she was “completely unaware” that the information network even existed, nor that it had “changed focus so significantly.”

However, the Minister of Health assured that there were “many different ways of understanding” what was happening with COVID-19 in the early days of the epidemic.

“We knew about COVID-19 very early on, the risk it posed to human health, and of course we were monitoring it very carefully in late December, early January. When everyone returned from vacation, I was fully informed. So we were aware of the pandemic. Hajdu said.

She admitted, however, that the GPHIN provided information that would have been “useful” in understanding the pandemic “much earlier”.

“They were able to scan, say, smaller newspapers, regional newspapers, cultural newspapers, they could scan social media to engage in discussion forums with maybe people closer to the ground,” he said. said Hajdu.

“So they probably could have figured out the details of how the pandemic was unfolding in China and other countries much earlier, and I think that kind of granular information is always useful when trying to understand in particular a new pathology like COVID-19. ”

At a press conference on Monday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam welcomed the news of the review of the organization’s sidelining.

“I think the president of the agency, and certainly myself and the minister in particular, will be looking at what the conclusions would be, but with the goal of strengthening early warning globally and all that Canada can do. bring, that would be very helpful, ”Tam said. .

During the same press conference, Tam confirmed that GPHIN was the body that informed her about the cluster of cases of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan in late December.

With files from CTV News’s Sarah Turnbull

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