Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this morning outlined what will be needed for Canada to further open its economy in the coming months, including better testing and contact-tracing capabilities to stem new outbreaks of COVID-19.
At his daily news conference, Trudeau said three specific steps that are needed for a further reopening are a scaled-up testing capacity, an accelerated ability to contact-trace quickly, and a shared data pool across all Canadian provinces on COVID-19 trends nationwide.
Ottawa is already working with the provinces on the first two items, Trudeau said; he noted that the federal government has already trained employees to do 3,600 contact-tracing calls a day. In addition, Statistics Canada has another 1,700 staff members who are capable of making 20,000 calls a day.
Trudeau said Ottawa is ready to help provinces with contact-tracing backlogs, and Ontario has already taken the federal government up on its offer. Some provinces, though, have not yet asked for help - although Trudeau declined to specify which ones.
“In order for people to get around freely and start getting back to normal life, we have to improve our ability to quickly pinpoint the virus and to isolate it,” Trudeau said.
The federal government currently has a testing capacity of 60,000 tests a day, but Trudeau said that capacity has not been used up at this point since many provinces are able to do adequate levels of testing within their own resource pools. The newly announced contact-tracing and testing capacities are in case there are new outbreaks as the economy reopens, he added.
Trudeau also mentioned he would like to have some news regarding the advent of a Canadian contact-tracing mobile app - something that has been proven effective in fighting the spread of COVID in other countries. However, he noted there are currently technical problems with the apps used elsewhere, because those apps tend to "sit on the foreground" of mobile devices and drain their batteries.
A fix is expected from both Apple and Google for their respective platforms in June.
"It is our expectation that, when the time comes for that to be released, we will be able to recommend strongly to Canadians a particular app that will help us manage the spread of COVID-19," Trudeau said.
Also this morning, Trudeau announced a new online tool for helping Canadians understand what emergency benefits they may be eligible for. The website – canada.ca/coronavirusbenefits – will ask site visitors a few short questions and respond with the programs they are eligible to apply for.