Canada’s multi-jurisdictional COVID-19 Public Health response – January to May 2020 Academic Article uri icon

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  • In late January 2020, the first COVID-19 case was reported in Canada. By March 5, 2020, community spread of the virus was identified and by May 26, 2020, close to 86,000 patients had COVID-19 and 6,566 had died. As COVID-19 cases increased, provincial and territorial governments announced states of public health emergency between March 13 and 20, 2020. This paper examines Canada’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic during the first four months (January to May 2020) by overviewing the actions undertaken by the federal (national) and regional (provincial/territorial) governments. Canada’s jurisdictional public health structures, public health responses, technological and research endeavours, and public opinion on the pandemic measures are described. As the pandemic unravelled, the federal and provincial/territorial governments unrolled a series of stringent public health interventions and restrictions, including physical distancing and gathering size restrictions; closures of borders, schools, and non-essential businesses and services; cancellations of non-essential medical services; and limitations on visitors in hospital and long-term care facilities. In late May 2020, there was a gradual decrease in the daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases seen across most jurisdictions, which has led the provinces and territories to prepare phased re-opening. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and the substantial amount of formative health and policy-related data being created provide an insight on how to improve responses and better prepare for future health emergencies.


  • Bielska, Iwona
  • Jewett, Lauren
  • Embrett, Mark
  • Buote, Richard
  • Manis, Derek R
  • Parikh, Manasi
  • Speicher, David J
  • Agarwal, Ragini Gina
  • Nartowski, Robert O
  • Finnegan, Heather
  • Bandara, Thilina
  • Hamilton, Clayon B
  • Moore, Emily
  • Liu, Rebecca H
  • Roher, Sophie IG
  • Lopatina, Elena
  • Nguyen, Duyen Thi Kim
  • Lawrence, Logan
  • Lukewich, Julia

publication date

  • 2020