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July 17, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Quebec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Private gatherings at fault

Quebec Premier François Legault stated that the current outbreaks of COVID-19 contagion in Quebec are not related to bars but rather to private gatherings among friends and family at home.

“This is the main cause. […] It’s fun to get together (with friends and family), but now is not the time. We must limit gatherings to 10 people and respect physical distancing and the use of masks,” said the premier.

He added that there will be heightened monitoring. Police will hand out fines to offenders.

Masks mandatory

While travelling in the Côte-Nord, the Quebec premier, along with the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, on tour in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, reiterated that masks will be mandatory in all closed public spaces in Quebec as of Saturday.

François Legault specified that masks and physical distancing make it possible to protect oneself and others. As the construction holiday kicks off, these measures will help support Quebec tourists and tourism throughout Quebec.

“With the pandemic, Quebecers will not be heading to the South, to the United States or to Europe this summer. They will visit Quebec. It’s an opportunity to increase our tourism and accommodation offer,” said Mr. Legault.

Dr. Arruda pointed out that the low rate of contagion in Quebec right now makes it even more difficult for the population to adopt mask-wearing, which is why he decided to make it mandatory.

For Dr. Arruda, masks could be mandatory for a long time. They may even be imposed in the future during other periods of contagion, such as during flu season.

Bars: measures must be respected

While bars will remain open in Quebec, the premier and Dr. Arruda insist that both staff and patrons must respect the restrictions imposed.

They reiterated that staff must wear personal protective equipment and patrons must wear masks while circulating in the bar and until they are seated.

Reviewing collective agreements

Premier Legault hopes collective agreements in the health network will be renewed before the fall, in time for a possible second wave of COVID-19 contagion, both feared and anticipated by health experts.

The premier wants two points in particular to be resolved. The first pertains to the differentiated increase in wages for staff so that patient attendants can receive a greater wage increase. The second concerns work organization, with overstaffing in the health network, particularly among nurses, in the middle of the week, and staff shortages on weekends.

Expansion of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

Federal Minister of Finance Bill Morneau is making the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) more accessible to all businesses by abolishing the criteria requiring a business to have lost at least 30% of its revenue due to the pandemic to be eligible.

In addition to expanding the program, it will be prolonged until December. The federal government is focussing on this wage subsidy to support the relaunching of the Canadian economy.