Trudeau announces additional fund for medical research on COVID-19

Ottawa, April 24 (IANS) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced to allot additional 1.1 billion Canadian dollars (about US $782 million) for national medical research against the COVID-19.

“The better we understand this virus, its spread and its impact on different people, the better we can fight it and eventually defeat it,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday, reported Xinhua news agency.

The fund is divided into three components: 115 million Canadian dollars (about US $81 million) for research into vaccines and treatments being developed in hospitals and universities; 662 million Canadian dollars (US $472 million) for clinical trials in Canada and 350 million Canadian dollars (US $248 million) to expand national testing and modelling for COVID-19.

The additional fund is meant to support previous efforts by the Trudeau government to marshal Canada’s medical community in the battle against COVID-19.

In mid-March, it provided 275 million Canadian dollars (about US $194 million) for medical research. It announced the creation of a new strategic innovation fund to allot another 192 million Canadian dollars (roughly US $136 million) to specific companies and research institutions working on new drugs and vaccines.

At the news conference, Trudeau also announced the creation of a new COVID-19 immunity task force focused on serology testing to determine if someone has been exposed to the virus already.

The COVID-19 immunity task force will include a series of Canada’s top doctors and will focus on blood testing to track and understand immunity to the novel coronavirus.

Trudeau said testing is key to the fight against COVID-19 and 20,000 tests are carried out in Canada every day. “Testing must increase even further before we can reopen and restart our normal activities as a country.”

“We know it may be a long while before a vaccine. There are discussions around treatments for COVID-19 that might work as well as a vaccine,” he said.

This new fund comes one day after Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said that rapid testing to detect and trace the virus’ spread will be essential to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tam said Canada needs to triple the number of COVID-19 tests being conducted daily in order to reach desired target of 60,000 tests a day.

To date, more than 620,000 people in Canada have been tested for COVID-19, according to CTV.

Some provinces like Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island where the virus’ spread appears to be minimal are planning to loosen some restrictions for businesses and service in early May.

“In the coming months we will be able to loosen a number of the restrictions and rules that we have right now,” he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were more than 41,752 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country and 2,141 deaths.