Canada’s Best Doctor Calls for ‘Structural Change’ to Address COVID-19 Inequalities


OTTAWA – Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, calls for “structural change” in the health, social and economic sectors in the wake of COVID-19, in a new report highlighting successes and gaps in the country’s response to the pandemic. Dated. In the Public Health Agency’s annual report released on Wednesday, Tam offers new insights and statistics related to Canada’s battle against the novel coronavirus in recent months and the “serious threat” the virus continues to pose. to pose.

For example, in Canada:

  • 80 percent of COVID-19-related deaths are residents of long-term care facilities;

  • 19 percent of national cases involve health workers; and

  • 92 percent of COVID-19 hospital patients had at least one underlying health condition.

The annual report is titled “From Risk to Resilience: A Fair Approach to COVID-19” and provides an overview of the consequences of COVID-19 so far, such as the disproportionate health impacts of workers who provide services. essential services, racialized populations, people with disabilities or with mental illness, and women.

It also includes recommendations on how to improve the country’s preparedness, response and recovery to a pandemic.

The report says “structural change” should include improving the conditions and conditions of employment in long-term care homes, increasing access to housing, as well as improving the capacity of long-term care homes. Canadians to access health and social services in person and online.

As Tam argues, the health of Canadians depends on their social and economic well-being and the severity of the COVID-19 disease can be influenced by their access to this type of support.

“No one is protected until everyone is protected,” Tam says in the report.

Tam’s general recommendations are divided into three appeals:

  • Support governance at all levels for “structural change” in the health, social and economic sectors. The report notes that the health of people in Canada was not equal before COVID-19, but that the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing gaps. Tam suggests that more data needs to be collected and used to inform policy decisions in order to eliminate inequalities and mitigate some potential impacts of a long-term pandemic;

  • Harnessing “the power of social cohesion” to control and minimize the spread of the virus. She suggests this can be done by leaders sharing evidence and information to give Canadians confidence in taking public health precautions like wearing masks; and

  • Public health capacity building. Tam says more work is needed to ensure that Canada’s public health system is able to manage outbreaks of cases while having the capacity to address health issues unrelated to COVID-19, including the reassessing “what sustainable investments and the future of public health would look like.” as. “


The report also reviews the timeline of the first confirmed case in Canada and from the start of transmission in the community, to various permanent restrictions and travel advisories imposed.

From a global perspective, according to the report, Canada ranked 79th out of 210 countries for the total number of cases per million population and 26th for the total number of deaths per million, as of August 22. Outbreaks in Canadian long-term care homes are cited as a factor in why Canada is so high on the death list.

“Preparedness for a pandemic has not extended to these settings, leaving residents vulnerable to the introduction, spread and impact of a new virus,” the report says.

In addition, analysis of cases related to international travel between January and March found that 35% of cases entered Canada from the United States, 10% from the United Kingdom and France and 1.4% from China. After travel restrictions were imposed, 91% of the cases reported in August were from Canada.


The report notes that in the absence of an effective treatment or vaccine, individual and collective public health measures must be taken to control the pandemic. However, “precise, timely and clear communication” has been a challenge.

Tam notes that there have been “a number” of issues on this front, such as the fact that Canadians are exposed to a large amount of information of varying quality and to the confusion created by frequently misplaced goal messages. in public health advice due to evolving science.

“The information needs to be adapted and contextualized locally, while at the same time balancing consistent key messages shared across the country,” the report says.

Tam advises that until the virus is under control, public health officials and governments must be transparent and provide regular COVID-19 updates and up-to-date advice.

It is part of Tam’s mandate to provide Minister of Health Patty Hajdu with an annual report on the state of public health in Canada, which is then tabled in Parliament.

The report is based on Canadian data available from January to the end of August and notes that, as the virus and the evidence surrounding it continues to evolve rapidly, “the report was written knowing that the story of this pandemic keeps changing day. “


  • December 31, 2019: PHAC has been notified of a pneumonia-like illness of unknown cause originating in Wuhan, China.

  • January 22, 2020: Canada is implementing new coronavirus testing requirements for travelers returning from China. Residents must answer additional screening questions to determine whether they have visited the city of Wuhan, China.

  • January 25, 2020: First suspected confirmed case of 2019-nCoV linked to travel to Wuhan, China, confirmed in Ontario.

  • February 20, 2020: First case of COVID-19 in Canada from travel outside mainland China from Iran reported in British Columbia.

  • February 23, 2020: First recorded case of COVID-19 in Canada linked to community transmission.

  • February 24, 2020: Alberta records first case of COVID-19 in Canada linked to travel to the United States

  • March 7, 2020: First outbreak of COVID-19 at a long-term care home in Vancouver, British Columbia, involving 79 cases.

  • March 11, 2020: Canada surpasses 100 reported COVID-19 cases.

  • March 12-22, 2020: Physical distancing measures are implemented across the country. All provinces and territories declare a state of emergency and / or a public health emergency. Non-essential businesses are closing or have significantly reduced capacity; gatherings are limited; schools are closing; notice issued for those who can, to work from home.

  • March 13, 2020: The Government of Canada recommends avoiding non-essential travel outside of Canada,

  • March 16, 2020: The Government of Canada is advising all travelers entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days.

  • March 18 to 19, 2020: Additional advisories for international travelers and border restrictions are implemented: entry to Canada by air is prohibited to all foreign nationals (except those of the United States); Canada and the United States agree to temporarily restrict non-essential travel at the Canada-United States border; International flights are redirected to only 4 airports.

  • March 28, 2020: First outbreak reported among temporary foreign workers in an agricultural setting, involving 23 people.

  • April 7, 2020: The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health issues a statement supporting the wearing of non-medical masks as an extra layer of protection for other people nearby.

  • April 14, 2020: The largest known COVID-19 outbreak reported at a homeless shelter in Toronto, Ontario, involving 164 cases.

  • April 15, 2020: Lockdown in response to the largest known outbreak at a correctional facility in Laval, Que., Involving 162 cases.

  • April 17, 2020: First outbreak of COVID-19 reported in an isolated northern community in Saskatchewan, affecting 117 residents.

  • April 24, 2020: New Brunswick is the first province to ease physical distance restrictions.

  • May 6, 2020: Alberta reports a COVID-19 outbreak at a meat processing plant, which becomes the largest one-location outbreak in Canada (by the end of August) with 1,560 people confirmed.

  • June 17, 2020: First outbreak of COVID-19 in a declared religious and cultural community in Saskatchewan, involving 285 people.

Chronological source: Public Health Agency of Canada.


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