Ottawa orders review into why pandemic warning system was shuttered

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has ordered a review following reports that the federal pandemic early warning system was shut down last year, and that the officials working on it were silenced, just months before the global outbreak of the coronavirus.

As the world continues to grapple with the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been repeated questions about how the virus — which originated in China — was able to spread so quickly and whether earlier detection could have limited the contagion.

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The Globe and Mail first reported in July that the Global Public Health Intelligence Network was shut down in May 2019 and its officials reassigned to other government positions.

On Tuesday, the newspaper reported that a review is now being launched into how that happened, which comes after it reported the system was brought back to life last month.

Global News has confirmed that Hajdu is ordering a “full and expeditious independent review.”

“We were concerned to learn of reports that GPHIN analysts felt that they were not able to proceed with their important work, and that some scientists didn’t feel fully empowered. That’s why we have ordered a full and expeditious independent review of GPHIN,” said Hajdu’s office in a statement.

“This independent review is an important step in restoring GPHIN and ensuring that it can continue its valuable contributions to public health in Canada and around the world.”

The review will be done by experts outside of the Public Health Agency of Canada, the statement said.

Hajdu’s office called the work being done by the system “critical.”

More to come.

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