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View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by joining my voice with that of our Prime Minister and offer my sincere condolences to the people of Nova Scotia, following this weekend's horrific events. My heart goes out to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims. It is beyond comprehension that the people of Nova Scotia should have to deal with this mass shooting and the loss of life while coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
This pandemic has changed how we live, how we work and how we interact with each other. It has created great uncertainty and hardship for many Canadians and indeed people all around the world.
Over the past few months, we have seen a steady increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, especially among vulnerable Canadians, including our beloved seniors who live in long-term care homes and the workers who support them. As Dr. Tam, our chief public health officer, reported earlier today, there are now 36,216 confirmed cases in Canada and 1,611 deaths. Though these are numbers, behind each number is a story of a life, a family and a journey interrupted.
To respond to a crisis of this magnitude, the Government of Canada has taken a whole-of-government approach that allows us to act quickly and decisively while remaining flexible so we can adapt to emerging science and the changing circumstances. As Minister of Health, I will speak to some of the actions we have taken from a federal health perspective.
Since the onset of this pandemic, the Public Health Agency of Canada has been providing Canadians with clear, concise and timely information about how they can protect their health and our broader health care systems. The agency bases its information on the latest scientific evidence, and this advice can and does evolve as we learn more about this new coronavirus.
Our dedicated website, Canada.ca/coronavirus, has had more than 100 million visits since its launch, and the toll-free COVID-19 information line has fielded more than 100,000 calls. We also launched the Canada COVID-19 app, which to date has been downloaded more than 430,000 times. This app includes a link to the recently launched wellness together Canada portal. This mental health and substance use support portal provides Canadians with access to tools to support their mental health and well-being, allows them to obtain credible and reliable information about mental health and substance use and even acts as confidential mental health and substance use support services.
From the beginning, Canada has recognized the need to work closely together with our global partners and the need to support international organizations like the World Health Organization and other international bodies. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's public health officer, is an expert adviser to the World Health Organization committee and is in almost daily contact with her international counterparts. I am very grateful for her leadership as well as that of Dr. Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer. Our public health officials, including both public health officers, are working day and night, seven days a week, and we should be extremely proud of our public service now, as it is working harder than it ever has to support and serve Canadians.
The federal health portfolio has also been working hand in glove with provincial and territorial governments to coordinate our response across a wide spectrum of issues, including the purchase of personal protective equipment, essential drugs, medical devices and ventilators. To ensure that we have the right tools to fight COVID-19, Health Canada streamlined the regulatory process to expedite the review and approval of needed drugs and medical devices in Canada. If shortages do occur, these amendments give us the flexibility to quickly facilitate rapid access to an international supply of health products in exceptional circumstances.
I also put into place an interim approach that allows Health Canada to facilitate access to hand sanitizers, disinfectants and other kinds of personal protective equipment to respond to the unprecedented demand for these products. In addition, I signed an interim order that has enabled the authorization of new diagnostic test kits. This has greatly sped up access to COVID-19 test kits, which allows the provinces and territories to identify new cases of the virus. As of today, April 20, Canada is testing an average of 20,000 more patients per day across the country, with a total of more than 550,000 people tested to date.
It is important to note that Canada's total case counts have been increasing more slowly than many other countries'. Canada has had the opportunity to watch and learn from the experience of other countries, the approaches they have taken and the lessons they have learned. This has allowed Canada to act early and decisively as the situation has evolved globally and at home.
As the world struggles to understand and control COVID-19, it must also understand so much more about immunity, mutation and many other scientific aspects. In that regard, our government is investing heavily in research. More than $52 million was earmarked for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and this money is supporting 96 projects that are working on countermeasures to COVID-19. This is part of our $275-million commitment to enhance the capacity to advance work on antivirals, develop vaccines and support clinical trials and manufacturing in Canada.
This is just a snapshot of some of the actions that have been taken to protect the health and safety of Canadians from COVID-19. As members can imagine, an incalculable amount of work is going on behind the scenes with our many partners across all orders of government. All of this work will deepen our understanding of the disease and give us the scientific evidence and data that we need to inform our public health responses, decision-making and planning at local, national and international levels.
I can assure members that the Government of Canada will continue to do everything in its power and jurisdiction to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; protect the health, safety and well-being of Canadians; and help guide them through these difficult and uncertain times.
It is up to all of us to ensure that Canadians come through this crisis healthy and strong.
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