Federal government increases funding for COVID-19 research

Canada is increasing its funding for COVID-19 research by $20 million, Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced Friday, after concluding that the $7 million it had planned to spend isn't enough.

The applications for the initial amount were "overwhelming," Hajdu said.

Forty-seven research teams will now get backing from the federal government for work to "inform clinical and public health responses, develop and evaluate diagnostic tools and vaccines, as well as create strategies to tackle misinformation, stigma, and fear."

"It also allows Canada to be at the ground level of this research so that when a vaccine is developed we are partners with other countries, that we can access that vaccine or that treatment quickly," Hajdu said.

In Quebec, officials asked a group of students in the Beauce who had just returned from a school trip to Rome to self-quarantine. The students had not travelled to northern Italy, where the virus has hit hardest, but provincial officials favoured caution.

Meanwhile, the 129 Canadians who were quarantined after returning to Canada from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan have finally been allowed to return home.

The Canadians were mostly confined to their rooms for two weeks aboard the Diamond Princess docked at Yokohama, Japan. The ship contained the largest outbreak outside of China at the time.

The Canadian government repatriated those without signs of the virus and put them under a further 14-day quarantine at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ont.

"These individuals remained asymptomatic for COVID-19 throughout the 14-day quarantine period and, as a result, they pose no risk to others and can safely return to their communities and to their usual activities," Tam said in a written statement.

Quebec has two confirmed cases and one presumptive diagnosis that still has to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Alberta has reported two presumptive cases of the illness.

Health officials in Ontario, British Columbia and across Canada have said the risk posed by COVID-19 in this country remains low.

But they've been preparing for weeks for a possible outbreak similar to the ones seen in Iran, South Korea, Italy and China -- where the virus originated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2020.

With files from CTV Montreal