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66,000 people tested for coronavirus; clinical trials for new treatments underway: feds

Last Updated Mar 20, 2020 at 2:08 pm EDT

A security guard hands a person a parking pass as they enter a hospital with a coronavirus assessment center in Mississauga, Ont., on March 15, 2020. GETTY IMAGES (Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Canada has tested around 66,000 people for COVID-19

The government said they have been successful in securing more medical supplies

Money is being sent to researchers, and to small companies that might have innovative products that could help

About 66,000 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus and clinical trials for new treatments are underway, Canada’s top medical doctor said at a press conference Friday.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said other types of treatments for the COVID-19 illness are also being explored.

At the same time, Tam said the government is still concerned about the disease’s spread in long-term care facilities.

“One of our biggest concerns is when the virus is introduced to a high-risk setting, such as long-term care facilities,” she said.

However, the consistent message from Canada’s top doctor is that Canadians need to avoid all non-essential travel.

And Tam repeated that message, without elaboration, when asked whether Canadian athletes should travel to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics, which are set to open July 24.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu adds that with disruption in air travel and border restrictions around the world, the safest thing for Canadians to do right now is to stay home.

Federal ministers are also trying to reassure Canadian children that the government is doing all it can to keep them safe.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says that as a mother, she knows these are tense times for young people.

She says an extended break from school might not be turning out to be as much fun as kids expected.

More medical supplies secured

Meanwhile, the government is being more aggressive with the purchase of medical supplies.

The federal government has been able to secure more than 11 million N95 respirator masks and delivery will begin immediately.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand says her department has been working closely with the federal public health agency to figure out which medical supplies are needed and where.

She says her department recently asked manufacturers across the country to let Ottawa know what they would be able to provide, and more than 5,800 companies responded by offering various goods or services to combat COVID-19.

She says the goal is to be “over-prepared,” especially since global demand will continue to climb and border restrictions could affect the supply chain.

Industry asked to come forward with new innovations to help fight the pandemic

While supplies are being secured, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains is asking Canadian businesses to step up and tell the government what they can do to help fight COVID-19.

He says some businesses, like distilleries, have already made quick changes to start producing high-alcohol hand sanitizers.

More money is being sent to researchers, and to small companies that might have innovative products that could help with the pandemic, but aren’t ready right now, such as diagnostic tools.

Bains says Toronto company Thornhill Medical is “doing whatever it takes” to scale up the production of ventilators.

An Ottawa company, called Spartan, is developing a portable COVID-19 testing device that if successful, could be used in airports and clinics and produce a test result in 30 minutes, he said.

Bains says the full weight of the federal government is behind the plan.