TORONTO -- The Ontario government is making a $20-million investment towards provincially-based research to help find a vaccine for COVID-19.

The financial boost, which will go towards the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, was announced by Premier Doug Ford during his daily news conference at Queen’s Park on Saturday afternoon.

The government said it is are calling on the province’s world-class research institutions, post-secondary institutions and non-profit scientific partners to “take action in the development of innovative solutions to track and defeat COVID-19.”

While acknowledging that Ontarians are eager to return to normal, Ford said that cannot be a reality until a vaccine is discovered.

“Until we have that vaccine, letting our guard down means potentially exposing millions of our people to the virus so any decision to reopen must be based on the best medical advice and these decisions will not be taken lightly,” Ford said.

“The hard fact is, until we find a vaccine going back to normal means putting lives at risk.”

Ford went on to tout the province’s track record related to medical research, stating that Ontario “has some of the best research facilities and hospitals in the world.”

“The world needs a vaccine and there is no reason why that vaccine can’t be found right here in Ontario,” he said. “We have the brightest minds in the world. There’s nothing we can’t do.”

Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano stood alongside Ford at Saturday’s news conference and echoed his sentiment.

“This money will be dedicated towards receiving proposals,” he said. “We want to secure proposals that have a high chance of success and can do so in a very quick fashion.”

“We want to find a vaccine at the soonest possible opportunity, like all of you - that is our priority.”

Romano said the work has already started and listed some hospitals and universities across the province already making progress in isolating the virus and drawing blood from patients who have recovered.

Ontario's Official Opposition released a statement regarding the funding later in the day, noting that the $20 million dollars “follows Doug Ford’s $25 million cut to the Health System Research Fund one year ago,” which was part of the “$51 million slash to Health Policy and Research, overall.”

“Those are the same research operations the Ford government is now relying on to find a COVID-19 vaccine,” the Ontario New Democratic Party said.

“Researchers could have been working on the global challenge of a COVID-19 vaccine earlier, if Doug Ford hadn’t cut their funding and wound down their work a year ago.”

Province to release updated modelling on COVID-19

The funding boost comes two days before the Ontario epidemiologists are slated to release updated models forecasting the spread of the deadly disease.

“You deserve the facts,” Ford said on Saturday afternoon. “You deserve to hear from the same experts and get the same information that I have as premier.”

“On Monday, you will see how far we’ve come, how far we still have to go. This data will help us chart the course for the coming weeks and months.”

Ford went on to state that the province will only move forward once “the green light” is given by health officials.

“We are going to base this on health. We aren’t ready to do anything at this point.”

In Ontario, there are currently more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, including more than 500 deaths.

The City of Toronto is also expected to release a model of case growth and fatalities on Monday, Mayor John Tory has previously said.