OTTAWA — The federal government will spend more than $1 billion to help develop, test and manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to determine how widely the virus has spread through Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

The cash announced Thursday is on top of $275 million in research funding the Liberals announced in March at the outset of the pandemic.

Most of the new money is aimed at funding vaccine development and clinical trials, including $600 million over two years through a federal innovation fund that the government says could help the country’s biomanufacturing sector.

Smaller amounts will go to tracking and identifying strains of the virus and the different health impacts it has had on different patients.

Trudeau also said the government will create a task force of public health experts that includes Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, and Dr. David Naylor, who has advised Liberal and Conservative governments on health and science issues.

The task force will be asked to oversee country-wide blood test surveys to get a better handle on potential immunity and vulnerabilities in Canada.

While a vaccine for COVID-19 would be ideal, other solutions might come first, Trudeau said during his daily news briefing.

“We know it may be a long while before a vaccine. There are discussions around treatments for COVID-19 that might work, as well as a vaccine,” he said.

“There are different ways of moving through. We will take the best ways we possibly can as we move forward.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2020.

The Canadian Press