April 28, 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 prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, confirmed that the isolation, social distancing and hygiene measures are working and that the pandemic is slowing down, but that, despite this, “we’re not out of the woods yet.” The resumption of activities will be slow and adapted to each region.
The premier of Québec, François Legault, announced the resumption of activities for retail stores, except those in malls, as well as construction, infrastructure works and manufacturing activities, starting May 11, in the Montréal area, and one week earlier in the rest of the province.
General rules for reopening the economy
Mr. Trudeau explained that his government has come to an agreement with the provinces and territories on the general rules for reopening the economy across the country, which will vary based on the epidemiological realities of each region.
“The capacity to screen and monitor COVID-19 must be adequate enough for us to be able to control its spread. That’s why we’re intensifying screening,” Prime Minister Trudeau said.
Gradual and limited
After having announced yesterday that schools and daycares will be reopening in May, Premier Legault confirmed that certain economic activities will be resuming. Retail, civil engineering construction, and manufacturing can resume starting May 11 in the Montréal area, and May 4 in the rest of the province.
The minister of the Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, stated that new strict personal protection rules must be followed. Social distancing will be required or, if not possible, the use of a mask will be mandatory. Initially, manufacturing companies will have to respect limits on the number of people who can work at the same time.
At present, the 1.2 million people who had a job on March 13, 2020, have lost it as a result of the pandemic.
Shopping malls and restaurants will not be reopened for the foreseeable future.
Premier Legault explained that with the exception of deaths in seniors’ residences, the death rate has been “very” stable for 14 days in Québec.
“Because of this plateau, we can declare that the situation is under control,” he said.
However, this observation does not mean the easing of isolation, social distancing and hygiene measures. Québec’s director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, explained that the people who will be authorized to return to work must be considered “essential workers.”
Premier Legault stated that the spread of the virus and its impact on the hospital system will be the two criteria that will dictate the pace at which activities resume.
“This is a weighted risk and we will monitor it. There will be an increase in contagion and there will be fatalities,” said Dr. Arruda. “We will backtrack if we think we’re moving too quickly.”
Store closures on Sundays, ordered for April, have been extended to May.
Similar to HIV?
Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated that as long as a vaccine has not been found—which will take at least six to 12 months—we will not be able to return to our normal lives in the foreseeable future.
As in the case of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a vaccine may not be discovered. “For over 10 years, we’ve been very aggressively searching for a vaccine against HIV, and we still haven’t found one, but there are treatments that have greatly improved the management of this virus,” stated the prime minister.
No gatherings or family reunions
Dr. Arruda added that without a vaccine or treatment, “we will have to maintain isolation for quite some time.”
This means no dinners with friends, no play dates for children and no family festivities in the foreseeable future.
The gradual reopening of elementary schools and certain stores and businesses will allow the virus to circulate, and with that will come contagion. The strategy, above all, is to protect the most vulnerable, people 60 years of age or over, who represent 97% of deaths related to COVID-19.
For Mr. Trudeau, anyone who is working must be able to work in a safe environment. The Canadian government is intensifying its efforts to increase the acquisition and domestic production of protective equipment.
Some six million surgical masks will be distributed across the country this week, along with 100,000 visors for health workers. Mr. Trudeau stated that in addition to imports, Canadian companies are being encouraged to produce this equipment for Canadian institutions and businesses.
Cell phone tracking
Premier Legault stated that the government is not yet contemplating the use of the tracking capabilities of new cell phone technologies to monitor the contagion or inform people who have been in contact with others who are infected.
“If we ever get there, personal data will be protected,” he said.