Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is investing over $240 million to bring health care online, expanding tools and creating new virtual platforms for mental health and primary care during the coronavirus pandemic.
The money will include funding for marginalized communities and virtual care for patients who may not need to see a doctor in person, he said during his daily press conference on Sunday.
“Whether you’re looking for strategies to manage stress, or support from a professional, this will be a resource for you,” Trudeau said.
“If we can provide mental health support online, there’s no reason we can’t leverage technology in other areas of health care, too.”
He used videoconferencing as an example.
“If we can use apps to order dinner and videochats to stay in touch with family — we can use new technology to keep each other healthy,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister also briefed journalists on an additional $175 million to support Canadian company AbCellera for what he called “very promising COVID-19 research,” and introduced a new COVID-19 Supply Council.
The council will be tasked with finding innovative solutions and keeping Canada supplied with medical equipment, like ventilators, as well as personal protective equipment, like masks.
“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.
Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand is expected to answer questions about the council Sunday afternoon.
The announcements come as several provinces have begun easing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, including Ontario and Quebec — the two provinces hit hardest by the virus — which are set to reopen on Monday.
Chief public health officer Theresa Tam said in a press release Saturday that social distancing measures were working to flatten the curve, but urged caution to provinces and territories looking to return to some semblance of normal.
“While we can continue to be cautiously optimistic, it is important that everyone remains aware of our duty to protect one another, especially those who are most vulnerable, as we navigate the next few weeks,” she wrote.
To date, there are 56,696 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, while 3,566 have died and 23,813 have recovered from the virus.
— With files from the Canadian Press