By Kelly Galbraith, Communications officer, Digital Service Directorate, Service Canada

In the digital world, there isn’t always a need to reinvent the wheel. We’re finding ways to reduce workloads and delivery times by re-using solutions that we know work. These solutions come from unparalleled collaborations between many teams.

In March 2020, as the spread of COVID-19 was increasing, Health Canada wanted to make sure that visitors were getting the most up-to-date numbers of cases and deaths in Canada. They also wanted to avoid any potential lags or inconsistencies due to manual updates. They needed a web solution that could update the numbers across many pages at once, and they needed something quickly. They reached out to Service Canada to see what could be done.

The COVID-19 real-time updates solution went live two days after the request came in on March 27. The updates appear on the COVID-19 landing page and the main outbreak update page on

Using the old to create the new

This real-time updates solution is not new. In fact, Service Canada recycled the existing solution used to display the wait times for 1-800 O-CANADA call centers. receives live data from the call centers and displays it in a readable format. This gives callers what they need to decide when the best time to call is. COVID-19 real-time updates appear thanks to a similar automatically generated process. receives data from the Public Health Agency of Canada and transforms it into a readable format for web pages. This happens every 5 minutes to ensure that the latest information is available.

More recently Service Canada and Health Canada have teamed up again to provide real-time updates on possible COVID-19 exposures:

Creating repeatable solutions, together

What we have learned about this solution is that it is repeatable. In recent years, the Canada Day and Winterlude calendars have also used real-time updates. Health Canada can now access it quickly when similar needs arise. Other Government of Canada institutions can also use it to update, in near real-time, any metrics of value to the public. The benefits of the solution include:

  • lower level of human effort
  • reduced inconsistencies
  • simultaneous updates when updating many pages at once

Reduce, re-use, recycle

Real-time updates isn’t the only COVID-19 digital solution we can recycle. For example, we can use the “Get Updates on COVID-19” email service to provide reliable and timely updates to the public by email. Another example is the “COVID-19 Announcements” page. We can repeat this again to bring together news articles about any relevant topic.

Collaborating and recycling can go a long way toward quickly providing the tools Canadians need to stay safe, healthy and informed.