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Trudeau touts vaccine deals as Canada notches new daily record in COVID-19 cases

Trudeau touts vaccine deals

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to offer Canadians modest hope about progress in testing and vaccine development after Canada notched an all-time high of new COVID-19 cases in a day.

Trudeau told a news conference Friday that the government is spending $214 million towards the development of COVID-19 vaccines, signing deals with two Canadian biotech firms.

But even as he touted Canada's portfolio of potential vaccines, Trudeau warned it's unlikely that any of these candidates will be ready to distribute to Canadians this year or early next year.

"We are hopeful that the vaccines will arrive yesterday, but they won't," said Trudeau. "There's still a number more months of work to do."

Trudeau said his government signed a $173-million contract with Quebec's Medicago to secure the rights to buy 76 million doses of its vaccine, should it meet health and safety standards. The funding will also be used to establish a production facility in Quebec City, he said.

Ottawa is also investing $18.2 million in a potential vaccine from British Columbia's Precision NanoSystems. Meanwhile, the National Research Council is spending $23 million to support other Canadian vaccine initiatives, Trudeau said.

The prime minister said Canada has signed six agreements with a number of companies taking part in the global race to produce a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 .

Two more American vaccine makers, Moderna and Pfizer, have asked Health Canada to review their products, which are undergoing clinical trials.

It's reasonable to expect that vaccines will start to roll out at some point in 2021, said Trudeau, but even then, supply will be limited, and high-risk populations will be prioritized for inoculation.

"We have experts busy evaluating exactly how and where and in which way to distribute these vaccines," said Trudeau.

The prime minister also said Canada has acquired "hundreds of thousands" of rapid test kits from medical company Abbott.

Two trucks carrying kits have already arrived in Ontario, said Trudeau, and provincial and territorial authorities will decide how to best deploy the tests as they're rolled out across the country.

But new innovations and investments will only prove effective in the fight against COVID-19 if Canadians do their part to curb the contagion's spread, Trudeau said.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters Friday that a record 2,788 new illnesses were reported Thursday, bringing the country's total tally to just over 209,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 9,800 deaths.

Case counts have increased by an average of 2,488 cases per day over the past seven days, said Tam, and the death toll rose by an average of 23 people per day. Hospitals treated an average of 1,000 COVID-19 patients last week, she said, including more than 200 people in critical care.

Tam said authorities need the public's help to rein in infection rates through practices such as limiting in-person contacts, wearing masks and physical distancing.

"Pandemics are whole-society events," said Tam. "That means the impacts extend across society not only by affecting those who become ill, but also by impacting the health, social and economic systems that affect our overall well-being."



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