April 20, 2020 – Government updates on the COVID-19 pandemic
In the exceptional circumstances of the current health state of emergency, here is an update on recent decisions and actions by federal and provincial public authorities in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Legault expressed his condolences to the family and friends of Victoria Salvan, who passed away on the weekend. She was the first patient attendant in a residential and long-term care facility (CHSLD) to die from COVID-19.
CHSLDs and seniors’ residences
Premier Legault made another urgent call to fill the shortage of 2,000 employees in CHSLDs and seniors’ residences. The staff shortage persists despite his repeated calls for help.
He stressed that about one hundred physicians have signed up to lend assistance in addition to 65 members of the military, but that physicians must commit for the next two weeks, full time, to avoid too much coming and going and to allow the teams to get used to working together.
“We have 4,000 people infected with COVID-19 in residences. It’s important to have more full-time physicians for two weeks, the time needed to bring the situation under control,” he said.
Mr. Legault announced that non-urgent activities in hospitals will be postponed for another two weeks so that more help can be directed to the CHSLDs and seniors’ residences.
The minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, pointed out that this does not have any impact on urgent or semi-urgent activities in hospitals, which will be maintained. She said that 6,000 hospital beds were made available to patients with COVID-19.
Support for Montréal
Premier Legault called on all physicians, nurses and patient attendants in the regions less affected by COVID-19 to come to the Montréal area to help out in CHSLDs and seniors’ residences.
The government will pay for personnel to stay in hotels that have already been reserved for the pandemic during their two-week assignment.
Contributing to the cause
Premier Legault explained that the 50,000 applications on the Je contribue government portal that were previously announced were incorrect, because many applicants registered for several places. The actual number of volunteers is closer to 19,000. Since 4,000 people have already been assigned, 15,000 other candidates will be contacted.
Minister McCann added that 2,195 students in health and social services have already come forward and will be quickly trained so that they can get to work as soon as possible.
Mr. Legault assured that we have enough protective equipment for medical staff and that gowns and masks are now being produced in Québec.
Questioned about handmade masks, the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stated that they could be somewhat useful provided that they are worn properly and that the hygiene and social distancing guidelines are respected.
“We’re studying the issue of masks. We will probably make videos to help people wear them properly and […] recommend the best fabrics to use. We’ll be making an announcement this week,” he said.
Dr. Arruda reiterated that wearing a mask must not replace the distancing and hand-washing measures.
With regard to N95 masks, Dr. Arruda stressed that there are not enough of these masks for all Quebecers and that they must be used by the people who really need them, namely, medical personnel.
Premier Legault talked about the problem of ensuring the supply of certain sedatives, specifying that “there is a global shortage but we do have similar products we can use.”
Patient attendant wages
The premier of Québec is pleased that union leaders want to increase the wages for patient attendants on a permanent basis.
“I asked the Treasury Board president, Minister Christian Dubé, to arrange a meeting with the unions tomorrow so that, together, we can settle the issue of patient attendant wages on a permanent basis and as quickly as possible,” he said.
Reopening of schools and economic recovery
It will take at least two weeks for teachers to prepare for the return to classes and, for the time being, it is impossible for the government to announce when classes will resume.
“We’ll relaunch the economy gradually, because we cannot wait until the fall and then reopen everything all at once,” said Mr. Legault. “We have just relaunched part of the construction industry. We’ll gradually reopen various businesses and we’ll review the results with Public Health.”
A general resumption of activities will have to be gradual to avoid another wave of COVID-19 contagion.
When questioned about this subject, the prime minister of Canada agreed that the pandemic situation is different from one region to the next in terms of when social and economic activities will be restored.
“Whatever decisions are made, the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 must remain a priority,” he added.
Managing the pandemic
When questioned about his leadership during this crisis, the prime minister of Canada said that his government turned to health experts and scientists to determine what needed to be done to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians and to bolster their confidence in a safe outcome to the pandemic.
“I see a tremendous sense of solidarity. All levels of government are working together. Canada is present with its entire government apparatus and Canadians see that. It’s the key to getting through this crisis,” he said.
The premier of Québec agreed that aside from the situation in the Montréal area and in CHSLDs, the pandemic is under control in Québec.
The national director of Public Health stressed that the measures put in place have prevented between 40,000 and 50,000 deaths, despite the terrible situation in CHSLDs. “We are closer to the optimistic scenarios than the pessimistic ones.”
“Sick and tired of isolation”
Mr. Legault said that he understands that seniors are “sick and tired of staying home.”
He encouraged people to go outside for a walk.
“It’s beautiful today, so get outside. It will do you good,” he said, while reiterating the importance of maintaining a distance of two metres and hand-washing once home. He added that for people who need someone to accompany them, the government is looking at how it can help them.
Questioned about the reopening of the House of Commons today, the prime minister said that he is confident that an agreement will be reached today on the best approach, so that “democracy can be kept alive in a responsible manner while respecting the rules set by public health experts.”
Unless an agreement is reached with the opposition parties, the 338 MPs must sit in Parliament five days a week. Discussions are underway to limit MPs working in the House in favour of virtual debates.
Premier Legault expressed his gratitude to those who “have worked tirelessly in seniors’ residences, those who have joined the cause over the last few days, and I would also like to thank in advance those who will come on board over the next few days.”
“This is our national emergency. We have thousands of vulnerable people in residences. It’s our duty to help them. We must not give up. We’ll get through this together,” he said.
Shooting in Nova Scotia
The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, commented on the worst shooting in Canadian history, which occurred in Nova Scotia on Sunday, stressing that violence has no place in our country. He thanked the RCMP and first responders for their work.
“This day is all the more difficult in the face of so many lost lives. My thoughts are with you. You can count on our support. I would like to wish all those who were injured a speedy recovery.”
Since gatherings are prohibited due to the pandemic across Canada, Mr. Trudeau announced a virtual vigil on Friday, at 7 p.m., on Facebook, in memory of the victims of the rampage.
When questioned about a bill on assault weapons, Mr. Trudeau replied that the bill to limit the use of assault weapons was not tabled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier François Legault offered his condolences to the people in Nova Scotia. “Our thoughts are with you.”