April 30, 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 the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The premier of Québec, François Legault, reiterated that the plan to gradually relax isolation measures, particularly in Montréal, will only be authorized if the situation is under control, and that everyone must continue to be disciplined, otherwise this plan will be postponed.
The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, stressed the importance of providing financial assistance to Canadians during the pandemic and stated that he is confident that the economy will make a strong comeback after this crisis, despite the fact that the federal government will register a record deficit this year.
Easing isolation measures only if…
Premier Legault stated that the situation is still critical in Montréal and that the green light will only be given if the pandemic and conditions in hospitals are under control.
The government plans to meet the six criteria for safely easing isolation measures put forth by the World Health Organization, namely:
- The epidemic is under control.
- There is a capacity to test and isolate cases.
- Vulnerable areas are monitored.
- Preventive measures exist in workplaces.
- The risks of contagion from abroad are managed.
- Communities are mobilized.
Montréal at risk
Gradual easing of isolation measures will begin in 11 days in Montréal, but Mr. Legault stated that while “the battle has not been won,” the situation is relatively stable.
Dr. Arruda stated that if outbreaks resume, isolation measures could be reinstituted and this would “ruin the months of July and August.”
Nothing will be the same
The national director of Public Health said that no matter what it is important for businesses to prepare for the easing of isolation measures. Nothing will be the same in the workplace and in how we use public transportation, he said.
The resumption of activities will occur under different conditions, and regardless of whether the reopening occurs in May or in September, the measures will be the same: social distancing of two metres, self-protection if people cannot respect those measures and wearing masks when using public transportation.
High death rates
Of the 2,600 seniors’ residences in Québec, 280 have cases of people infected with COVID-19, most in the Montréal area.
Yesterday, of the 98 coronavirus-related deaths, 92 were in these centres.
“Today, there are 4,400 people infected in these residences. We will doing everything to save them, but there will continue to be many fatalities in the coming weeks,” said Mr. Legault.
Accelerated testing capacity
The capacity to test the population will almost triple as of next week, said Mr. Legault.
From today’s rate of 6,000 tests a day, the capacity will increase to 14,500 next week and will continue to increase in the weeks to come.
Mr. Legault noted that Québec has already conducted 214,000 tests, which represents 25,000 tests per one million inhabitants. Ontario has conducted 18,000, like the United States, while the United Kingdom has conducted 12,000 and France 7,000.
Lakeshore General Hospital
While the situation in hospitals is under control outside the Montréal area, three hospitals are overwhelmed in the metropolis, including the Lakeshore General Hospital, in Pointe-Claire.
Premier Legault stressed that measures to free up beds are already in place in order to transfer certain patients who have recovered from COVID-19 or who no longer need to be in hospital to hotel rooms rented by the government to prevent overcrowding.
These patients, most of whom live in CHSLDs, will not return to those centres for the time being.
While the situation has improved with the help of the Armed Forces, healthcare teachers and students as well volunteers who responded to Premier Legault’s plea, there are still 10,500 people absent from the health network.
“Fortunately, 7,200 people have come to lend a helping hand. The situation is improving, but our recruitment efforts are ongoing. Please sign up (on the Je contribue website),” said Mr. Legault.
Record federal deficit
While a record deficit of $250 billion is forecasted for Canada this year, compared with $24.9 billion last year, Prime Minister Trudeau emphasized that the pillars of the Canadian economy are solid and will allow for a strong comeback.
He stated that Canada is fortunate because it had one of the best debt/gross domestic product (GDP) ratios among the G7 countries and among countries comparable to Canada.
The global economic shutdown and the assistance programs for Canadians exposes Canada to the risk of a recession and a 12% drop in GDP in 2020.
Right now, Prime Minister Trudeau did not venture to discuss financial recovery measures, particularly cuts in services or tax hikes at the end of the crisis.
“Our priority is to support Canadians so that they can stay home, which will prevent the spread of the virus and prevent overwhelming our healthcare system. (…) Yes, there will be an economic crisis that will be challenging and will last for some time, but we must make sure that the economy comes back as strongly as possible,” he said, to justify the support programs for the population and businesses.