Canada’s response to Covid-19 in the context of the IHR(2005) and its opportunity to lead in global health security: a policy analysis.

On January 30th, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a novel

coronavirus (Covid-19) originating in the city of Wuhan, China a “public health emergency of

international concern (PHEIC)”. The declaration is based on authority provided by the

International Health Regulations (IHR(2005)), the most important document governing the global

response to pandemics and other public health threats1. The IHR(2005) empowers the WHO to

take actions to reduce the spread of these threats in a way that does not unnecessarily interfere with

international travel and trade.

Canada has been a key proponent of the IHR(2005) borne out of our experience with the 2002-03

SARS outbreak. SARS also brought awareness to several limitations in our ability to respond to

public health threats and resulted in policy reforms including the creation of the Public Health

Agency of Canada.

While improvements have been made, Canada’s ability to respond to public health emergencies

and meet IHR requirements has been challenged by factors such as our federal system of

government, which creates challenges for a coordinated national response2

The objectives of this project are to evaluate Canada’s (i) preparedness and (ii) response to the

Covid-19 outbreak with a focus on Canada’s compliance with the IHR(2005) and to identify how

Canada can (iii) support and improve the global response to PHEICS. We will achieve these

objectives through an environmental scan, literature review, policy review, semi-structured

interviews with stakeholders and a member-checking feedback process. We will also leverage a

rich repository of data from a study we recently completed with the WHO.

This project will provide guidance to Canadian and international health authorities to optimize

the response to public health emergencies and strengthen the IHR(2005). It will identify

opportunities for Canada to assist with and lead in global health security efforts’.