Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a daily update on the coronavirus crisis each day in front of his home in Ottawa. Here are his remarks for April 23, 2020.
Good morning, everyone. At sundown marks the beginning of Ramadan. For many Muslim Canadians, the coming month will be different than normal with Iftar online and virtual Friday prayers.
But that won’t change with the special time is all about: generosity, compassion and service to others. Across the country Muslim Canadians are on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 as nurses, doctors and essential workers. So thank you and Ramadan Mubarak.
This will be another difficult day for many families and communities across the country. We’re all thinking about those in Nova Scotia who are grieving the loss of loved ones, friends and neighbours.
Yesterday, I spoke with the families of some of the people we lost. They shared stories about their loved ones and their dreams and plans. In the face of such tragedy their strength is remarkable. I spoke also with RCMP members from the area and on behalf of all Canadians, I thank them for their service. I spoke with some local mayors as well to express my condolences. For Torontonians, I know it’ll be a hard day as well as we remember the victims of the van attack on Yonge Street two years ago.
Together we mourn and together we heal because just as Canadians were there for each other two years ago, we’re there for each other today. Across the country, people are hanging tartan, blue ribbons and scarves from windows to honour those who died. With acts of kindness and donations, people are standing with families who are grieving. And tomorrow, with the virtual vigil, we will all have the chance to show the people of Nova Scotia that they are not alone.
These are tough times, but there is reason to hope. When it comes to COVID-19, what we’re doing is working. And to continue on the right track, we need to be thinking not just about the next weeks, but about the next months. We need medium-term and long-term solutions.
On that front, I can announce today that we’re taking another step forward. We’re putting in place an additional $1.1 billion for a national medical and research strategy to address COVID-19. This plan has three pillars: research on vaccines and other treatments, supports for clinical trials and expanding national testing and modelling.
Let me start with the first pillar on research. Under this plan, we’re investing close to $115 million for research into vaccines and treatments being developed in hospitals and universities across the country. This is on top of the funding we’ve already provided to support vaccine development in Canada.
The second pillar of the plan is to make sure that once we have potential vaccines and treatments, we can test a wide range of options. Under this plan, we will invest over $662 million for clinical trials led by Canada. A vaccine is the long-term solution to this virus, but these drugs will take months to develop, test, fabricate and roll out. So until we have something ready, we need to control the spread of the virus.
And that’s where the third pillar of this plan comes in. We’re investing $350 million to expand national testing and modeling of COVID-19. This includes creating COVID-19 immunity task force. The task force will operate under the direction of a leadership group, which will include Dr. David Naylor, Dr. Catherine Hankins, Dr. Tim Evans, Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr Mona Nemer. We are bringing together top health experts and scientists from leading institutions across the country.
Canada’s best and brightest will be working on serology testing—blood testing—to track and understand immunity to COVID-19. They’ll be looking at key questions like how many people beyond those we’ve already tested have had COVID-19, whether you’re immune once you’ve had it, and if so, how long that lasts. Over two years, we will be testing at least a million Canadians as a part of this study. The findings of the research will help with everything from rollouts of a potential vaccine to determining which public health measures are most effective going forward.
We will get valuable data, including disaggregated data to understand the impact on vulnerable populations. And we will also leverage new and existing lab capacity for research. The better we understand this virus, its spread and its impact on different people, the better we can fight it and eventually defeat it.
While this vital research is happening, we’re also staying focused on what we can do right now to control COVID-19 and get back to normal as soon as possible. Testing is key. We’ve now reached 20,000 tests daily, almost double where we were earlier this month. But testing must increase even further before we can reopen and restart our normal activities as a country. You’ve been doing your part by staying home and practicing physical distancing. It’s working and we can’t afford to waste this progress.
We’re seeing terrible tragedies in long-term care facilities across the country. This is unacceptable. If you’re angry, frustrated, scared, you’re right to feel this way. We can do better. We need to do better because we are failing our parents or grandparents, our elders, the greatest generation who built this country. We need to care for them properly. Canadians need to pull together.
There have been requests for military assistance by both Ontario and Quebec, which, of course, we will be answering. Our women and men in uniform will step up with the valour and courage they have always shown. In the short term, we will be there with support so that provinces can get control of this situation. But this is not a long-term solution. In Canada, we shouldn’t have soldiers taking care of seniors. Going forward, in the weeks and months to come, we will all have to ask tough questions about how it came to this. We will all have to do more to get through this terrible situation.
[translated from French] Everyone is doing their part to get through this period. We’re all part of the same team. While we do our part, everyone must do their part. Together we can get through this and together we will come back in full force. Thank you.