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. 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 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.
The prime minister also said Canada has acquired "hundreds of thousands" of rapid test kits from medical company Abbott. Trudeau said his government has started distributing the kits to provinces and territories, and it will be up to those authorities to decide how to deploy them.
But new innovations and investments will only prove effective in the fight against the COVID-19 contagion if Canadians do their part to curb the spread, Trudeau said.
Canada's chief public health officer told reporters Friday that a record 2,788 new illnesses were reported Thursday, bringing the country's total count to just over 209,000 COVID-19 cases, including more than 9,800 deaths.
Dr. Theresa 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.
Meanwhile, a Quebec health institute released projections Friday suggesting that province's health system should have the capacity to handle the number of COVID-19 patients expected to need care in the next four weeks.
Quebec is reporting 905 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths from the illness.
Ontario also reported 826 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and nine new deaths linked to the virus.
Manitoba reported a total of 163 new infections Friday, most concentrated in Winnipeg, and the positivity rate is now up to 6.5 per cent. The province also said a man in his 80s is the latest death linked to an outbreak at Winnipeg's Parkview Place that has killed a total of 15 people.
New Brunswick is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 in the Campbellton region, which is one of two areas that saw significant outbreaks two weeks ago.
Newfoundland and Labrador is asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 7484 from Toronto to Deer Lake on Oct. 12 to get tested in relation to a new COVID-19 case announced on Thursday.