April 15, 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.
The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and the premier of Québec, François Legault, reiterated that we must continue to follow the guidelines by staying home and that isolation will continue for another few weeks. At the moment, the Québec government’s priority is to help residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs).
From an economic standpoint, the federal government is expanding the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, and Québec is looking at measures that would allow small businesses to reopen soon, while observing new rules to ensure physical distancing of two metres.
Return to normal life
Despite the fact that many people are impatient and are anxious to see the isolation measures taper off, the prime minister of Canada stated that it will not be possible for Canadians to quickly return to normal life. Isolation will last a few more weeks at best. The first wave of contagion has to pass before the current measures can be relaxed.
“It would be premature to do it now. We have to stay the course. These are important sacrifices that must be made. We have to make sure that everything we have done up until now is not undone. Now is the time for extreme caution,” he said.
He pointed out that as long as there is no vaccine, we have to be extremely vigilant, and we must maintain this phase of very tight restrictions for as long as it takes for this first wave of contagion to ebb.
“The danger is that our healthcare system will become overwhelmed. This is what we want to avoid. If everyone does their part, we’ll get through this, together,” said the prime minister of Canada.
Expanded access to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit
Prime Minister Trudeau broadened the eligibility criteria for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit to four new categories of workers.
These categories are seasonal workers who earn less than $1,000 a month, even on a part-time basis, workers who have not been eligible for employment insurance benefits since January 1, 2020, and artists who no longer have to include copyright revenue in their income.
In concrete terms, the new measures will allow these individuals to maintain an income of up to $1,000 a month, while receiving assistance of $2,000 a month.
National emergency in CHSLDs
Québec Premier François Legault called on all available doctors, including general practitioners and specialists, to come to the aid of nurses as well as patient attendants in CHSLDs.
He reported 1,282 absences in public CHSLDs alone, due to infection, health conditions or fear of contracting COVID-19.
“There’s a shortage of 2,000 nurses and patient attendants in CHSLDs,” said the premier. “We don’t have enough hands. We need qualified people. I’m calling on doctors to come and help provide care to our elders, to bathe and feed them,” he said.
Referring to Québec doctors who are working abroad on humanitarian missions, the minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, stressed that in the current context “the humanitarian mission is to care for the elderly in our CHSLDs.”
“I’m calling on your sense of duty and responsibility, as doctors. I’m asking you to make a special effort to care for our elders,” said Mr. Legault.
Assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces in CHSLDs
When asked about possible reinforcement from the Canadian Armed Forces in CHSLDs, Premier Legault said that he has asked the federal government how many qualified people could be deployed.
Prime Minister Trudeau “recognizes that there are needs. We’re working to provide assistance to Québec in the shorter term, if possible and if necessary.” He reiterated that there is an online portal where people with specialized experience and medical expertise can sign up.
Reopening small businesses
Québec Premier François Legault announced that his government is looking at various scenarios for reopening small businesses that are feeling the impact of the big-box stores that are still open for business.
“Guidelines will have to be respected, especially two-metre distancing,” he said.
The prime minister of Canada stressed that his government is doing everything to avoid any drug shortages related to COVID-19 and other illnesses.
“We have good relations with the rest of the world and we will do everything we can to avoid any disruptions in our supply. We’re working with the provinces and our partners around the world,” said Mr. Trudeau.
Québec Minister Danielle McCann reiterated that, as was the case a few days ago, there is a limited reserve of drugs for sedation.
Prime Minister Trudeau encouraged people to consult the Government of Canada’s mental health portal if they feel the need and to remember that there is no shame in asking for help.
“The situation right now can seem unreal. It’s not always easy to deal with what’s happening around us,” he said.
Sports activities this summer
While large cultural and sports gatherings are prohibited until August 31, Premier Legault stated that it is still too early to know if sports and recreational organizations will be able to offer their summer activities, such as baseball, soccer and football leagues.
World Health Organization (WHO)
When asked about the government’s support for the World Health Organization (WHO), Mr. Trudeau reassured the public that everything must be done to protect Canadians and to work with national and international experts. He stressed that tens of millions of dollars are paid to the WHO and that this sum has increased due to the pandemic.
“Tomorrow, I will be talking to the Group of Seven (G7) about continuing our efforts to stop COVID-19 and coordinating our approaches,” said Mr. Trudeau.