This morning Canada has seen over 5,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began. There are over 70,000 confirmed cases across the country. 

The country’s Chief Public Health Officer says all aspects of the next phase will be focused on extreme caution because this virus could take off rapidly. Dr. Theresa Tam says before any international border restrictions are considered to be lifted, provinces and territories need to see what happens when domestic public health measures are eased. 

She says then comes health system capacity and the ability to detect and contact-trace as well as quarantine and isolate them. Tam says it also depends on tracking the international epidemiology because the virus is in all countries and jurisdictions of the world and is at different stages. 

She quickly points out that the United States, being a country that still has cases and is still trying to manage outbreaks, does present a risk to Canada from that perspective, something she says she is very aware of.  Tam says one of the key strategies to better testing is widening the symptom list to test anyone who has mild symptoms. 

She says this would be casting the net a lot wider than a month or so ago, in the middle of the epidemic. Tam says the next phase of testing will focus on those with mild symptoms who were told to stay at home and “wait it out.”

As for how the federal government can ramp up long-term care, Tam says the key is to prevent the entry of the virus which can be quite difficult because of asymptomatic people. She adds this includes the use of personal protective equipment for staff member’s entire shifts to prevent introduction by staff or between staff. 

Another factor is staff’s ability to stick to one facility for those working at multiple homes at a time, which Tam says poses a challenge because of their relatively low paying jobs. 

And on reports of essential-medicine shortages, Tam says Health Canada monitors and facilitates constant discussions with the provinces and territories on any signs of any kind of drug or essential supply issues. She says the agency is looking at different procurement strategies including domestic capacities as well.

Meanwhile, by May 10th the Canada Emergency Response Benefit saw another 569,000 new applications.

The Canada Revenue Agency along with Service Canada reports just under 11.4-million applications have been received since mid-March.  Of those, 11.3-million applications have been processed, amounting to about $30.5-billion paid to Canadians in CERB payments