Government of Canada invests $53 million to address COVID-19 virus variants of concern

The Government of Canada is taking a multilayered approach to detecting and addressing variants of concern in Canada. To this end, the government developed a monitoring program with provinces and territories to identify new COVID-19 virus variants in Canada, such as the ones originating in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1). Today, the Government of Canada is increasing our capacity to find and track these variants in the country by investing $53 million in an integrated Variants of Concern Strategy. This will help rapidly scale up our surveillance, sequencing and research efforts.

The Government of Canada is working with provinces and territories and the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) to rapidly scale up sequencing and scientific efforts to detect known and potentially emerging COVID-19 virus variants of concern. This national strategy brings together public health and genomic sequencing along with epidemiology, immunology, virology, and mathematical modelling. Through this partnership, we are leveraging existing laboratories and expertise to drive public health investigations and take public health action rapidly.

This partnership involves the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) National Microbiology Laboratory (NML), Health Canada, Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). To implement the Strategy, PHAC’s NML is providing $20 million and CanCOGeN is providing $8 million to increase genomic sequencing and real-time data sharing capacity. CIHR is providing up to $25 million to scale up Canadian research to increase our understanding of emerging variants and provide decision makers with rapid guidance for drug therapy, vaccine effectiveness, and other public health strategies.

Funding will expand upon existing public health networks to establish regional clinical and public health teams to quickly identify and characterize variants of concern. Through the Strategy, we will also standardize data sharing across Canada and facilitate the access of information on the variants from national and international databases. This rapid sharing of information with researchers is imperative to an effective international response to the variants of concern. The funding will also create a research network to complement surveillance efforts and public health actions as part of an integrated team, and provide key information on the biological relevance of the variants to inform public health decisions.

The Variants of Concern Strategy is part of our science and evidence based response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 virus variants of concern continue to emerge, Canada will be prepared to detect, track, and treat these new cases.

To keep each other safe, Canadians should continue to practice public health measures, and should get tested if they experience symptoms.


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