Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, which has provided guidance and advice to the government and public throughout most of the pandemic, said Friday that Public Health Ontario is dissolving the group as of Sept. 6.
The advisers said in a statement that as the table winds down in the coming weeks, it will aim to complete existing work.
“The Science Table’s work reflects the remarkable dedication of the hundreds of volunteer scientists, physicians and administrators who devoted their time to the effort,” they wrote.
“We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served Ontario since July of 2020. Many of us will remember our work for the Science Table as some of the most important work we have ever had the chance to do.”
The Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto oversaw the group of independent scientists until April 4, when Public Health Ontario announced it would host the expert group on a permanent basis.
It said at the time that group would develop new terms of reference to become “sustainable over time” and be able to scale up if necessary in the event of future public health emergencies.
A statement Friday from Public Health Ontario suggested it is looking at forming a new group, saying it has been engaged in discussions with science table representatives over the last few weeks over new terms of reference.
“The new terms of reference establish a mandate that reflects a long-term, sustainable approach and ensures the continued provision of credible and independent scientific and technical public health advice to the province on COVID-19 and future public health emergencies,” it wrote.
“Membership will continue to be comprised of independent experts.”
The science table’s advice and guidance at times during the pandemic have run contrary to government actions, and its former scientific director, Dr. Peter Juni, was particularly outspoken.
Dr. Fahad Razak, who took over the position from Juni this year, said in a statement that he hopes the scientific advice the group provided to the public and decision makers has helped to reduce suffering.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will remain a daunting challenge for the foreseeable future and our health-care system is under extraordinary strain right now,” he wrote.
“I hope we can take all the steps necessary to reduce the burden of the pandemic to keep our system functioning in the difficult months ahead.”
© 2022 The Canadian Press