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April 11, 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 governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the press briefing, the deputy prime minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, reminded Canadians that Easter celebrations will be different this year and that it is essential to continue to follow the rules of social distancing.

The number of deaths increased in both Québec and Canada.

CHSLDs in Canada
The federal government announced that guidelines for residential long-term care centres (CHSLDs), established in collaboration with the provinces, will be published shortly and that the provinces must oversee their implementation.

“These guidelines will be important in protecting the residents of these centres as well as those who work there,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The main guidelines stipulate that personnel must work in only one CHSLD, and that only people offering essential services will have access to these centres, that additional protective measures must be put in place during visits and work shifts, that social distancing must be respected and that any shared objects must be disinfected before reuse.

Considering the number of deaths recorded in CHSLDs since the beginning of the pandemic, the chief public health officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, added that we must better protect seniors and find new ways to have contact with them.

Private CHSLDs and seniors’ residences in Québec
The premier of Québec, François Legault, ordered verifications of the 40 private CHSLDs in the province to ensure that everything is under control and to provide them with assistance, where needed.

This decision comes on the heels of an update of a serious situation in a private residence in Dorval, where 31 deaths have been recorded since March 23, five of them tied to COVID-19. The causes of the other 26 deaths will be investigated. This private residence is now under government supervision. An injunction was required to gain access to the medical files. This residence was already under scrutiny by the Québec Ombudsman in 2017. The ministers of Health and Social Services and Public Security have ordered investigations.

“What happened in this residence is horrendous. It looks a lot like gross negligence,” said Mr. Legault.

The minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, added that people in the education system will help reinforce the CHSLDs starting next week. Various measures put in place over the last few weeks will be maintained in the CHSLDs.

“We must completely review how services are provided in these centres,” she said.

The government directive is still in place to inform the loved ones of seniors who are in hospitals, but in the current context, personnel in certain residences will have to prioritize providing care over making calls.

Mr. Legault added that once the crisis is over, all procedures will be reviewed in seniors’ residences in order to provide better care for the elderly.

“The government must get involved in how things are done in private centres and establish standards. We must make sure that the work gets done, centres need to be smaller, with more space for each resident, and the people who work there must be qualified and well paid,” he stated.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the House of Commons to pass the emergency wage subsidy. This initiative is the most ambitious Canadian policy since the Second World War. It will enable Canadians to continue to be paid during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Each of us has a role to play. Even if we’re physically separated, we’re united in our determination to overcome COVID-19. We will survive, persevere and win,” said the leader of the Canadian government.

The wage subsidy for businesses was adjusted, in concert with business leaders and union leaders, so that it is simple, user-friendly and responds to the needs of Canadians.

“We know that workplaces are like families. This program will help businesses and guarantee that paycheques are on their way,” said Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

The business subsidy will be ready to roll out in two to five weeks.

Reopening schools
Premier Legault specified that only the protection of Quebecers’ health will determine whether or not schools are reopened. Various scenarios are being studied and the situation will be closely monitored in the coming days and weeks.

“In all cases, we’ll be sure to monitor the health and safety of personnel, children and their parents. There will be no compromises,” he said.

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, added that schools will reopen gradually so that it is possible to adjust and properly evaluate the measures put in place as things evolve to ensure that they are effective. “We don’t want to go too quickly to end up having to reverse course later,” he stated.

Several scenarios are being studied.

Drugs and protective equipment
Mr. Legault gave an update on the challenges of ensuring the supply of some 20 drugs. He specified that his government is in discussion with the other provinces and the federal government to find solutions.

Minister McCann said that this primarily pertains to drugs for sedation and that current supplies will last at least one week.

In terms of protective equipment, the situation is improving and Québec is receiving assistance from some provinces.

Festivals and sports events
Premier Legault stated that larges-scale events will be cancelled until August 31, because it is not realistic to allow people to gather in close contact before then.

He did not discount the possibility that certain sports events could be held, while respecting social distancing of two metres, depending on how the restrictions around the pandemic evolve.

Foreign workers
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed that all temporary foreign workers must respect the Quarantine Act upon their arrival in Canada, just like travellers returning to Canada from abroad.