Feds will fund COVID-19 testing, tracing and data-sharing, Trudeau promises

Clay Curtis
May 22, 2020

In the early days of the pandemic, public health officials did not recommend wearing non-medical masks, a position that changed in early April after Dr. Tam said they could be worn as "an additional measure" when it became clear COVID-19 can be spread by people who aren't showing symptoms.

"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.

She said that wearing a mask forces people to breath in and out "humid, hot breath" that can trigger asthma attacks and difficulty breathing. She did not suggest she regrets recommending against using face masks earlier. He took it off when he stood to speak.

Tam's recommendation that face masks be worn marks a turnaround from her advice seven weeks ago that people who are not sick should not be wearing a face mask.

"I will certainly be wearing a mask if I can't physically distance, and I encourage all other British Columbians to do the same thing", said Horgan in his daily briefing.

Some countries have made wearing face masks mandatory in public, including Spain, which enacted such a rule this week. Tam said mandatory mask use across Canada doesn't make sense because the risk is far different in the Yukon or Prince Edward Island than it is in Montreal or Toronto.

She stressed that a face mask is not to replace other measures like physical distancing, handwashing and staying out of public places when you can.

She has emphasized that wearing a mask - whether medical or non-medical - does not replace staying two metres apart from people outside your household and maintaining proper hand hygiene.

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"It is an added layer of protection", she said.

The federal government will fund provinces' efforts to test people for COVID-19, track the contacts of those who test positive, and help different jurisdictions share data, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.

Masks, she said, are a good way to protect those around you when it's hard to keep a safe physical distance from others for an extended period of time - for example, on public transit.

The prime minister said he wears a mask while walking through the halls of Parliament but that when he sits down to debate, the two-metre distance between him and other MPs is reestablished and he removes the mask.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, and Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, are making a "recommendation" that Canadians wear a non-medical mask when they can not maintain a two-metre physical distance.

"We aren't out of the woods yet", Trudeau said.

Trudeau said the government is now working with "number of different partners" on potential contact tracing and exposure notification applications, and that in the coming weeks Ottawa intends to "recommend strongly to Canadians a particular app that will help us manage the spread of COVID-19".

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