Expert panel on COVID-19 in Ontario to disband in September

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group, which has provided advice and guidance to government and the public through much of the pandemic, will be disbanded effective Sept. 6. The Ford government, however, ensures that its work will continue.

Members of Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group said in a statement Friday that Public Health Ontario has informed them of the disbandment. They explained that the work started will be completed in the coming weeks.

“The work of the science panel reflects the remarkable dedication of the hundreds of volunteer scientists, physicians and administrators who gave their time to the effort,” they wrote.

“We are deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to serve Ontario since July 2020. Many of us will remember our work on the Ontario COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group as one of the most important that we never had the chance to do,” they added.

A Friday statement from Public Health Ontario suggested it was considering forming a new group, saying it had engaged in discussions with representatives of the current group in recent weeks about a new mandate.

This would reflect “a long-term sustainable approach” and which “ensure the continued provision of credible and independent public health scientific and technical advice to the province on COVID-19 and future public health emergencies”, can we read.

“Members will continue to be made up of independent experts,” says Ontario Public Health.

Premier Doug Ford has said he is not ending the science panel.

“We are actually transferring it to public health,” he said at a press conference. They’ve had an incredible relationship throughout this pandemic. They’re going to have a permanent place, rather than being put in limbo. »

The Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto oversaw the panel of independent scientists until April 4, when Public Health Ontario announced it would host the panel on a permanent basis.

She said at the time that the group would develop a new mandate to ensure “the viability of the group over time” and be expanded as needed depending on the situation and future crises.

The Ministry of Health also mentioned in a press release on Friday that the work of the expert group will continue.

The advice and guidance of the advisory group at times during the pandemic has been contrary to government actions, and its former scientific director, Dr Peter Juni, has often been outspoken.

Dr Fahad Razak, who succeeded Mr Juni this year, said in a statement that he hopes the scientific advice the group has provided to the public and policymakers has helped reduce suffering.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will remain a significant challenge for the foreseeable future and our healthcare system is under exceptional pressure at this time,” he said.

“I hope we can take all necessary steps to reduce the burden of the pandemic to keep our system functioning in the difficult months ahead.”

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