The federal government is offering to send the Canadian Red Cross into COVID-19 hotspots as case numbers rise and parts of the country slip into a second wave, according to sources.
A senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the government has been reaching out to hard-hit regions recently experiencing outbreaks and surges.
Depending on an individual region’s needs, the Red Cross could provide logistical support for testing centres and long-term care homes, help in isolating infected individuals, assist with feeding and caring for the sick and offer psychological aid, said the official.
The work would be covered by the $100 million in new funding the federal government gave the Red Cross back in May.
Over the summer, Health Canada worked with the Red Cross — a charity that receives funding from the Canadian government and has a long history of responding to disasters — to build up a civilian workforce to deploy during regional outbreaks in the event of a second wave of infections in the fall.
The organization has already deployed already to Quebec long-term care homes and helped to deliver food to temporary foreign workers isolating in southwestern Ontario.
So far, the government has made contact with British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, and with Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor-Essex and the Peel region in Ontario, with plans to talk to Winnipeg today, the senior official said.
It falls to the provinces to make an official request for a Red Cross deployment.
Public Safety ready to coordinate
A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the department is ready to help coordinate a response “to any emergency situation at any time.”
“The Canadian Red Cross has done incredible work in supporting our provincial health systems throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mary-Liz Power in an email to CBC News.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we’ve been clear that our [responsibility] will as well. We will always be there to support Canadians.”
A spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross said conversations with public authorities are ongoing.
“The Red Cross continues to build its capacity to respond and remains committed to helping people where and when most needed,” they said.
The senior official said that Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam has reached out to her counterparts in provinces experiencing surges to offer help.
The outreach effort comes as some regions grapple with a surge in cases
On Wednesday, Ontario health authorities said they are expecting new daily cases of COVID-19 to reach 1,000 in the first half of October. The province also confirmed another 625 new infections.
An ongoing wave of infections has prompted the Quebec government to shut bars, restaurant dining rooms and theatres for most of October in the most densely-populated areas of the province.
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