April 6, 2021 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic
Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
A very worrisome third wave
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is very worried about the scope of the third wave of the pandemic in Canada and supports the provinces that are imposing stricter lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, as is the case in Québec, Ontario and British Columbia.
The prime minister announced that tomorrow he will be discussing the situation with all provincial and territorial leaders, stating that these measures may be crucial in stopping the current contagion.
“The situation is very worrisome,” said the prime minister. According to him, these three Canadian provinces have made difficult but necessary choices. “These are difficult choices, but it’s what we have to do to save lives,” said Mr. Trudeau.
He added that it will take time for the vaccines to produce their effect, which will curb the pandemic.
April: a month fraught with danger
The threat posed by the third wave on the healthcare system is making April “a critical, crucial month,” warned Québec Premier François Legault, who said that it will be “a month fraught with danger.”
Even though the projections made by public health experts indicate that the healthcare system, including intensive care units, will hold out, Premier Legault announced new “preventive” lockdown measures.
As of Thursday, fitness centres will have to close in red zones. Places of worship will have to limit attendance to 25 people and the 9:30 p.m. curfew will be maintained, but could be brought back to 8 p.m. “We considered the idea,” said Mr. Legault, while warning that he would not hesitate to change his decision if the number of hospitalizations increases.
As of Monday, students in grades 9, 10 and 11 will have to once again return to hybrid learning, alternating between in-person and online attendance, due to the risk of spreading COVID-19. Extracurricular activities as well as indoor sports will be cancelled.
In orange zones, masks will become mandatory as of Monday for all elementary students. Places of worship will go from 250 to 100 people.
The premier defended his yoyo approach to the directives by reiterating that, everywhere in the world, countries are having to adjust their measures according to how the pandemic is evolving.
“I prefer to see Public Health making adjustments based on the health of Quebecers rather than clinging to a position because it was adopted the week before. In fact, in some ways, I think this takes courage,” said Mr. Legault.
Four regions move to red zones
The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said that four of Québec’s regions that have been under emergency measures since last week, namely, the Lower St. Lawrence, the National Capital, Chaudière-Appalaches and Outaouais, will move to red zones instead of returning to their orange-zone status.
Gatherings in homes
The Easter holiday prompted more private gatherings in homes, even though they are still banned, explained Mr. Legault.
The fines issued by police have doubled since last week, with a 300% increase in tickets due to gatherings in homes.
The premier of Québec reiterated that extending the curfew from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. does not mean that gatherings in homes are now permitted.
Vaccination: an increase despite missed appointments
The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, deplored the fact that thousands of people did not show up for their vaccination appointments over the weekend, but promised that none of the 5,000 doses that were not administered were lost.
Premier Legault noted that 18.5% of Quebecers have already been vaccinated, which is a higher rate than in the rest of Canada where 17.6% of Canadians have been inoculated.
The vaccination pace will continue to increase as planned over the next few weeks to attain its peak in May and June.
As of Thursday, people aged 55 and over will be able to go to mass walk-in vaccination centres, such as the Palais des congrès and the Olympic Stadium, in Pointe-Claire, to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
People 60 years and older can make an appointment anywhere in Québec and those in categories 8 and 9, established by health experts, that is, essential workers and people with a chronic illness, will be able to get the vaccine as of Thursday by appointment.
Travel restrictions and more dangerous variants
Despite the nice weather, the Canadian government warned that it is still too early to envisage the reopening of the land border with the United States or to enjoy travel for pleasure between the provinces.
Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated that, despite the current vaccination campaign, the reopening of the land border with the United States is still not being considered. The prime minister added that he will wait for the opinion of scientific experts to determine when it will be possible to ease the rules about non-essential travel.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam recommended avoiding inter-regional and inter-provincial travel to prevent the spread of the virus, especially since the different variants, such as P1 (commonly known as the Brazil variant), could be more resistant to the vaccines. At the moment, the P1 variant is present in British Columbia and Ontario.
The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, reiterated the importance of getting tested at the onset of the slightest symptoms, since the new variants, particularly the one from Brazil, are more easily transmitted and lead to more serious health problems.
The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, added that the physicians who were consulted stated that the “people who are being admitted to intensive care are younger and are arriving in worse shape,” driving home the importance of not waiting and being tested as soon as possible.