April 29, 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 deputy premier of Québec, Geneviève Guilbault, announced the gradual reopening of the regions starting next Monday with the lifting of police roadblocks in the Laurentians, Lanaudière, Chaudière-Appalaches and the city of Rouyn-Noranda.
The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, reaffirmed that students and recent graduates must be able to take advantage of the $9-billion federal government assistance program. This program still needs to be adopted by Parliament.
Reopening of the regions
Ms. Guilbault stated that the first roadblocks will be removed on May 4, followed by the gradual removal of police roadblocks in various regions during the weeks of May 11 and May 18, provided that containing the spread of the coronavirus continues to improve. It is too early to make any announcements for the city of Gatineau and remote regions.
The deputy premier of Québec stressed that the regions will be reopened gradually for the purposes of essential travel, not for tourism or outings between regions.
The guidelines pertaining to isolation, outings limited to essential needs and physical distancing of two metres remain in place.
“Quebecers must continue to maintain the incredible discipline they have shown over the last two months,” said Ms Guilbault. “We must remain prudent, compliant and disciplined. It’s too early to declare victory, COVID-19 is not a thing of the past,” she said.
Difficult situation in the Montréal area
Dr. Arruda stressed that COVID-19 outbreaks in some Montréal hospitals is among the factors that could delay the gradual reopening of the Montréal area, planned for May 11.
A more in-depth analysis of the spread of the virus and the state of Montréal’s hospital network will be conducted before May 11.
“Hospitals must have the capacity to provide treatment,” he said, while adding that COVID-19 hot zones are relatively stable at the moment.
The minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, said that the situation in Montréal is preoccupying. “Montréal’s emergency rooms are very busy right now.”
Sunny days of summer
The deputy premier highlighted that even though it may be tempting to get together with friends and family, gatherings are still prohibited. It is impossible to predict what Quebecers’ lives will look like this summer.
The director of Public Health, Dr. Arruda, reiterated that he is not in favour of authorizing measures to “experiment” with people’s health, but we “are trying to restore a more normal way of life.”
Restaurants, bars, barbers and hairdressers
For owners of restaurants, bars, barbershops and hair salons, the situation will continue to be monitored closely over the next few weeks. These establishments will remain closed and no announcements have been planned regarding their reopening.
Deputy Premier Guilbault reminded these entrepreneurs that if they are having cash flow problems, they can get help through the financial support and credit programs that have been set up during the pandemic.
CHSLDs, a national emergency
Québec’s national emergency continues to be the situation in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs). Some 400 additional soldiers will be deployed in eight facilities.
“We’re getting reinforcement, but the needs are still enormous,” said Ms Guilbault.
Dr. Horacio Arruda noted, however, that the situation is starting to improve in the CHSLDs and that the number of deaths should start to decrease this week.
The prime minister of Canada underlined the importance of preserving the production and autonomy of the food supply chain for Canadians in a context in which beef slaughterhouses are grappling with COVID-19 outbreaks among their workers in Western Canada.
It is important to protect workers’ health. “We have to be vigilant during this difficult and unprecedented situation,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Cell phone tracking
The federal government is looking at the possibility of using cell phone applications to track the spread of the virus, but no decisions have been made yet.
Mr. Trudeau emphasized the fact that Canadians feel strongly about the protection of their personal information and their privacy.