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Canada needs to ‘test smartly’ to survive second wave of coronavirus, Tam says

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Tam says provinces need to ‘test smartly’ as 2nd wave of COVID-19 grips Canada' Coronavirus: Tam says provinces need to ‘test smartly’ as 2nd wave of COVID-19 grips Canada
WATCH: Coronavirus: Tam says provinces need to ‘test smartly’ as 2nd wave of COVID-19 grips Canada – Oct 5, 2020

Canada will need to “test smartly” if the country hopes to successfully navigate its way through a second wave of the novel coronavirus, Canada’s chief public health officer said Monday.

In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters broadening pandemic preparedness and effective communication at provincial and municipal levels would be “critical” in the coming weeks as health officials work to bring rapidly accelerating case numbers back under control.

“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,” she said.

Read more: Ontario COVID-19 testing centres accepting people by appointment only starting Oct. 6

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“People who haven’t had any exposure or risk may want to stay at home and just look at what happens to their symptoms before consulting with public health about appointments.”

Messaging on testing has changed repeatedly in different parts of Canada, with provinces flip-flopping on whether or not residents who are asymptomatic should be getting tested, along with massive backlogs as cases swell.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 testing trouble hits Ontario, as Quebec reimposes more rules' COVID-19 testing trouble hits Ontario, as Quebec reimposes more rules
COVID-19 testing trouble hits Ontario, as Quebec reimposes more rules – Oct 5, 2020

Tam said 80 per cent of the country’s cases of the virus were coming from Quebec and Ontario, averaging on 1,800 cases per day within the past week. She added an average of 585 people were in-hospital on any given day within the past week.

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On Friday, Ontario announced it would be shifting to an appointment-based testing system and subsequently closing walk-in testing centres across the province, making it harder for people to get tested.

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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Trudeau says there’s ‘still time’ to ‘turn around’ 2nd wave by Christmas' Coronavirus: Trudeau says there’s ‘still time’ to ‘turn around’ 2nd wave by Christmas
Coronavirus: Trudeau says there’s ‘still time’ to ‘turn around’ 2nd wave by Christmas – Oct 5, 2020

That same day, the province reported 732 more cases of the virus, setting a new provincial record amidst a backlog of more than 90,000 COVID-19 tests that were still pending results. Ontario added 1,219 confirmed cases of the virus over the weekend, announcing 615 more on Monday.

Some parts of Ontario are doing worse than others. In Toronto, health officials said they would be suspending contact tracing after struggling with “high levels” of infections across the city.

Trudeau lauded contact tracing as “extremely effective in terms of tracking down cases,” but said “once you start getting to backlogs, apparently it becomes more difficult to have contact tracing be as effective.”

“But we know it’s a key part of the success against this 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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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Toronto COVID-19 cases rising at a rate that could ‘outpace’ contact tracing efforts, top doctor says' Coronavirus: Toronto COVID-19 cases rising at a rate that could ‘outpace’ contact tracing efforts, top doctor says
Coronavirus: Toronto COVID-19 cases rising at a rate that could ‘outpace’ contact tracing efforts, top doctor says – Oct 5, 2020

In Quebec, health authorities recorded more than 1,000 for the third consecutive day on Sunday, with much of the province locked down under its highest pandemic alert level.

In spite of rising case numbers across the country, Trudeau said “there’s still time to turn this around for Christmas,” urging Canadians to download the COVID-19 tracing app, wear a mask and practice physical distancing.

“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.

During Question Period, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole sparred over the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Canada has procured 7.9 million rapid COVID-19 tests, says Freeland' Coronavirus: Canada has procured 7.9 million rapid COVID-19 tests, says Freeland
Coronavirus: Canada has procured 7.9 million rapid COVID-19 tests, says Freeland – Oct 5, 2020

O’Toole criticized Trudeau for failing to bring rapid testing to Canada when countries around the world had already procured “hundreds of millions” of tests that were being used regularly.

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“The prime minister has been months late on securing rapid tests for Canadians. Why are they now making the provinces go to the back of the line as well?” He said.

Freeland responded she shared the view that “rapid testing is absolutely essential to our health, it is absolutely essential to our economic recovery.”

“That’s why I’m pleased we bought 7.9 million rapid tests last week,” she said.

More to come. 

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