Canada is ramping up contact tracing and here's what that means
One key tool to help keep an eye on how Canada is faring while lockdown restrictions slowly loosen across the country is contact tracing — something that the federal government is now making a top priority.
To keep you safe and get you the support you need, we’re working closely with the provinces and territories. And on our tenth weekly call with @cafreeland and the premiers, we spoke about testing, contact tracing, and what more we can do together as Team Canada.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 22, 2020
In his daily press briefing on May 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said we're now in the phase of the pandemic where governmental efforts will be most focused on testing, contact tracing and data collection to track down where, how, and to what extent the virus is spreading, as well as to try to contain it.
Thousands of employees have been newly trained by both the Canadian government and Statistics Canada to thoroughly follow up with those who have COVID-19 or who have come into contact with someone who does to "make sure they take measures to quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms or get tested."
PM says Statistics Canada has an addition 1,700 interviewers ready to go, who can make up to 20,000 contact tracing calls a day.— Neetu Garcha (@NeetuGarcha) May 22, 2020
"These federal resources are available to help provinces/territories with any surges or backlogs in contact tracing."
Already helping in Ontario
The new team will be asking these individuals a series of questions about their symptoms and their recent whereabouts, as well as further educating them about the virus and making sure they are properly isolating and minimizing risk to others.
This will be done through more than 23,000 phone calls per day, seven days a week for the foreseeable future, on top of of each province's existing efforts.
"In order for people to move around freely and start getting back to normal life, we have to improve our ability to quickly pinpoint the virus and isolate it," Trudeau said on Friday, adding that all levels of government need to have "a coordinated approach to gradually reopen that is rooted in science, evidence, and the ability to rapidly detect and control any future outbreaks."
Premiers will be working together with the support of Ottawa to increase testing rates and better monitor patients in their provinces, and to coalesce and share the information nationwide in order to respond to outbreaks accordingly.
NEW: PM Trudeau says Canada needs to continue scaling up testing capacity, and is working with provinces to increase contact tracing.— Colin D'Mello CTVNews (@ColinDMello) May 22, 2020
Trudeau says the government wants testing and contact tracing data to be shared across provinces. #onpoli
Trudeau reiterated that significantly accelerating both testing and contact tracing is absolutely imperative before Canada can successfully reopen the economy and adjust to "our new normal," as the virus is still a serious health and safety threat.
The PM verified that an app will likely be a part of this endeavour — like it has been in countries like Australia and South Korea — as it can offer a quick and convenient way for citizens to both send and receive data about potential exposure.
But, there may be issues with the data sourced from a potential app if people only have to participate on a voluntary basis — something officials say is a must for user privacy.
And, there has already been a ton of public backlash to the idea of the federal government having access to such information (especially from conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers).
No f'n way... EVER! No contact tracing, no mandatory vaccines! We know our rights. Let's never ever give government that kind of control over our lives because i guarantee we will all regret it if it ever happens.— Kurtis Bungay 💭 (@kwb_80) May 22, 2020
As provinces begin to navigate the uncertainty of the various stages of reopening that they're now entering, Canadian officials will be trying to capture and share the most accurate stats on cases in order to make decisions about whether to push forward with loosening things up or bring back more stringent lockdown measures.
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