As the early days of the coronavirus pandemic raged, Canadian public health officials found themselves facing down what the country’s top doctor on Wednesday described as “swabaggedon.”

The swift and sudden onset of the highly contagious virus saw a global race for everything from personal protective equipment, to ventilators, to chemical testing agents and medical swabs, with reports emerging of some countries such as the United States stealing medical supplies on the runway from allies.

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Speaking at a virtual conference of Canadian public health officials, Tam described an all-out rush to try to secure the supplies needed for a robust domestic response.

“We had to find swabs from everywhere, very high-level political leadership had to call around to get things,” she said, noting that her public health colleagues quickly began calling the situation “swabaggedon.”

Tam spoke as part of a meeting of public health officials focusing on the pandemic response and, along with deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo, took questions from a moderator about the challenges and most resonant moments they have faced so far.

Both pointed to the March border closures as a striking moment.

More to come.

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