A woman is tested for COVID-19 at a mobile clinic in the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Michel, Sunday, May 3, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

New COVID-19 council hopes to aid fight to secure more PPE

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, so does the competition–by countries and other jurisdictions around the world–to come up with the supplies needed to protect front-line health-care workers, including, it must be noted, the odd clown.

It is anything but easy–compared by some to the old (American) Wild West.

A good bit of improvisation marks the race.

On Sunday, the federal government announced it is establishing the COVID-19 supply council.

The council will include representatives from several organizations, including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Red Cross.

Its task: to strengthen Canada’s existing supply chains for personal protective equipment–items such as masks, gloves and disinfectants, as well as to improve sourcing, production, shipping and distribution strategies for the supplies.

The results remain to be seen.

The race to come up with needed personal protective equipment continues, unabated. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Sunday’s update included a series of other announcements, among them, a $240-million commitment to make it easier for mental health care and other medical services to take place online.

The package includes a one-time top-up to the Canada child benefit that will see eligible families receive an extra $300 per child as part of their regular May payment.

Trudeau said some of the funding in the package will go toward new platforms for mental health care and primary care, as well as expansions of existing virtual care supports.

“If we can use apps to order dinner and video chats to stay in touch with family, we can use new technology to keep each other healthy,” he said.

Trudeau said specific tools will be available to help people in marginalized communities who require specialized care.

As well, the prime minister announced an additional $175 million in funding for the Vancouver-based biotech firm AbCellera, a company he said has identified antibodies for use in potential drugs to treat the novel coronavirus. 

The funding is expected to help the company carry out human trials, which could begin as early as July.

“Until we have effective treatments, or better yet a vaccine, we’ll still need a reliable supply of everything from masks to ventilators,” he said. 

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Sunday still faces “logistical challenges” in securing personal protective equipment. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

CBC News’ Raisa Patel reports that Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand told Sunday’s briefing that a majority of Canada’s supplies are still imported from other countries. 

And, Anand noted, the federal government continues to face “logistical challenges” due to heightened demand for personal protective equipment, but that there was still “significant progress” being made.

Anand’s update came as Health Canada announced it was restricting the use of a rapid COVID-19 test created by an Ottawa company, Spartan Bioscience, after the National Microbiology Lab found problems with the test that made it unreliable. 

“In light of the clinical results, Health Canada has placed conditions on the company’s authorization to restrict the use of the product to research use only until adequate evidence of clinical performance can be provided,” the federal agency said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

Patel reports that Spartan Bioscience said Sunday that “the concerns centre around the proprietary swab used in the test — which was promised to deliver results in as little as 30 minutes — but that the agency did not raise concerns about the accuracy of the test reagents and portable analyzer device.”

Spartan Bioscience will recall 5,500 tests shipped nationally and work on additional clinical studies to assess the sampling method and swab.

With files from CBC News (Raisa Patel, David Cochrane, Kathleen Harris), RCI

Categories: Economy, Health
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