Canada expands online health services and launches COVID-19 supply council

By on 06/05/2020 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Trudeau announced that the government has earmarked CAN$175m for biotech firm AbCellera which has identified antibodies for use in potential drugs to treat coronavirus. (Photo by EJ Hersom, courtesy DoD via flickr).

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced a CAN$240m (US$170m) investment in online health services to boost mental health and primary care platforms during the coronavirus pandemic.

The PM has also introduced a COVID-19 Supply Council, tasked with strengthening the country’s supply chain for PPE, ventilators and other items.  

The two announcements were made during a press conference on Sunday.

Trudeau said that the additional healthcare funding will support marginalised communities and provide virtual care for patients who may not need to see a doctor in person. “Whether you’re looking for strategies to manage stress, or support from a professional, this will be a resource for you,” Trudeau said. “If we can provide mental health support online, there’s no reason we can’t leverage technology in other areas of health care, too.”

The news follows the launch last month of an online portal aimed at linking Canadians to support workers and mental health professionals during the pandemic.

New supply council

The new supply council is designed to improve the country’s efforts to procure items needed in the fight against the virus. Procurement minister Anita Anand said it is intended to strengthen the country’s existing supply chains for items like masks, gloves and disinfectants, improving sourcing, production, shipping and distribution strategies.

“From start to finish — from manufacturer to arrival or production in Canada — what is it that we can be doing differently to ensure that we have proper and effective and efficient procurements within our government and across the country?” Anand said.

During the conference, Trudeau also briefed journalists on an additional CAN$175m (US$123m) to support Vancouver-based biotech firm AbCellera for what he called “very promising COVID-19 research”. He said the company had identified antibodies for use in potential drugs to treat the virus. The funding is expected to help AbCellera carry out human trials, which the PM said could begin as early as July.

The announcements come as several provinces have begun easing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Ontario began allowing some businesses and essential construction projects to resume on Monday, while Quebec – the province hit hardest by the pandemic – will start to reopen selected retail stores. Manitoba’s strategy, meanwhile, includes opening dental practices for urgent procedures and permitting restaurants to open outdoor seating areas at half their usual capacity.

To date, there have been more than 63,000 COVID-19 cases in Canada and 4,223 deaths.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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