The move comes as the healthcare system in major areas hit breaking point
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vows to ramp up contact-tracing efforts in provinces that are fast becoming COVID-19 hotspots. The federal government aims to deploy hundreds more workers on the ground who are tasked with pinpointing possible cases of infection across communities and workplaces.
Contact tracing is “extremely effective” in containing the outbreak, but it is likely to become less effective once there is a backlog in the investigation, Trudeau said in a news conference.
“We know it’s a key part of the success against this virus, which is why we’re continuing to deliver larger numbers of contact tracers to places like Ontario,” he said.
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A total of 500 public servants will handle cases in the province – 30 of them will focus on Ottawa as public health officials in the city last week warned that its healthcare system is in crisis.
“Labs are working beyond capacity, causing dangerous backlogs, which affects our contact tracing and case management. Hospitals are nearing capacity, and we’re seeing more outbreaks in [long-term care] homes. Our system can’t handle much more of this,” Ottawa Public Health tweeted.
Our health care system is in crisis. Labs are working beyond capacity causing dangerous backlogs, which affects our contact tracing & case management. Hospitals are nearing capacity, and we're seeing more outbreaks in LTC homes. Our system can't handle much more of this. (6/10)— Ottawa Public Health (@ottawahealth) October 2, 2020
Apart from Ontario, other hot spots such as Alberta and Quebec will also receive additional support from the federal government as they widen the scope of their investigation and test potential cases more rigorously.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, estimates that four in five cases emerging in the country today are concentrated in Ontario and Quebec.
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With the number of cases in these provinces averaging 1,800 daily in the past week, provincial and municipal leaders need to be strategic in their testing and tracing, Dr. Tam said at the press briefing.
“We have to test smartly, obviously making sure right now if there is congestion, et cetera, that those with symptoms or those who have a risk of exposure be the ones lining up and not just [those who are] worried,” Dr. Tam said.
Despite all this, Trudeau remains hopeful: “There’s still time to turn this around for Christmas.”
“You’re probably already wearing a mask when you go out. Now, more than ever, keep it up. The same goes for staying more than two metres apart and washing your hands,” he said.