April 5, 2020 – New measures by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
In the exceptional circumstances of the current health state of emergency, here is an update on recent decisions by federal and provincial public authorities in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.
Premier François Legault announced the extension of the public health state of emergency and confinement of the population for three more weeks, until May 4 instead of April 13. This measure seeks to limit the COVID-19 pandemic in Québec in order to save lives. This extended period was announced as we get ready to record the most cases of people infected by the virus over the next few weeks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault stressed the importance of respecting the guidelines issued by public health officials, namely, to stay at home, limit travel to essential needs while respecting social distancing of two metres and washing hands with soap for 20 seconds upon returning home.
They reiterated that all of these measures will help to shorten this “pause” so that we can return to normal life as soon as possible. Each and every one of us must do our part and, together, we will overcome this situation.
Québec on pause until May 4
Mr. Legault announced the extended closure of stores and businesses until May 4, instead of April 13, “as long as we do not see a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases. Above all, it’s a question of health,” he said.
The minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, said that the effects of the crisis are being studied in every economic sector in order to assess the resumption of activities based on sector, geography and the level of recovery of businesses.
Three phases will be assessed: the ability to operate under confinement, recovery based on Québec’s strategic assets and what we expect the world to look like after the crisis. Mr. Fitzgibbon stressed that the government will continue to work with business leaders, experts, economists, sector representatives and various professional groups to revive our economy.
“We’re preparing for what comes next,” said Mr. Legault.
Google publishes data
Premier Legault pointed out that Google has collated data from 50 American states and 10 Canadian provinces on how many people are following the guideline to stay home. Québec is well ahead of the game.
“I am proud of Quebecers. And even more importantly, I am certain that this will save hundreds of lives. Well done!”
Mr. Legault added that now, more than ever, the guidelines must be followed, for another few weeks, before we can resume our normal activities. He hopes that we can come close to the results in Germany where, proportionately, the number of deaths is well below the average of countries grappling with this global pandemic.
Prime Minister Trudeau stated that the production of protective medical equipment has increased in Canada and his government is working with suppliers around the world, despite current shortages. Discussions are ongoing with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to ensure that trade continues for the benefit of both countries. On Friday, Mr. Trump prohibited the American multinational 3M from exporting N95 masks outside the United States.
Mr. Legault stated that orders for masks and gloves were received yesterday and that Québec now has 13 days of inventory for N95 masks and gloves, but only a seven-day supply of procedure masks and gowns.
The government is looking at various alternatives for manufacturing this equipment in Québec, because supplies will be more difficult to obtain in the next few weeks and months given the global demand. Some 80 Québec businesses are interested in manufacturing protective equipment. Some will convert their activities to meet this immediate demand but will resume their regular operations once the crisis is over.
“We’re looking for solutions to avoid a shortfall of equipment. We’re looking at every solution. We’ll have to be creative,” stated Mr. Legault.
The premier of Québec stated that the government is working hard to save as many businesses as possible and to ensure that everything is in place to help entrepreneurs revive their businesses in the next few weeks.
“I understand the situation you’re facing, because I used to be an entrepreneur. I can understand why you’re discouraged. You work hard, without counting all the hours you put in. It’s important not to give up so that we can return to normal as soon as possible.”
Entrepreneurs are being encouraged to talk to their bank manager. The sum of $150 M has been added for loans of less than $5,000, through local investment funds.
The “Panier bleu” – encouraging local businesses
Mr. Legault also announced the launch of a new digital platform featuring Québec products. Le Panier Bleu is a government-funded non-profit organization that promotes Québec products.
Mr. Legault stated that it is now more important than ever to change our buying habits in favour of items produced here at home, for the good of local businesses as well as the people they employ.
“We want Quebecers to buy Québec products. Every $5 spent per Québec household generates $1 billion more in our economy. It’s a unified approach that allows our small merchants to prosper,” said the minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon.
He added that all of the initiatives underway across the province to encourage local businesses are inspiring.
“With Le Panier Bleu, we’re laying important groundwork for an initiative that’s rooted in Québec. With the inventiveness and resilience of Québec businesses, things will pick up and we’ll be poised for success,” explained Mr. Fitzgibbon.
The board of directors of Le Panier Bleu will mostly be composed of businesspeople who understand retail, technology and marketing.
In light of the global health crisis, the premier of Québec pointed out that there are two sectors that must become more autonomous: pharmaceuticals and food. This vision encompasses the entire food chain—from the farmers, to processers and retailers—as well as the manufacture of generic drugs and healthcare equipment.
The delivery sector must also be developed since more and more products will be delivered. The premier would like to see Quebecers shopping online for Québec products.
The various ministries should serve as role models when it comes to purchasing local goods and services, in keeping with international trade agreements. Québec’s current trade deficit is $20 billion. In order to strike a healthier trade balance, the government must make a list of imports and see how to assist entrepreneurs here at home.
Fines for gatherings
Mr. Legault reminded Quebecers that police officers can now hand out $1,000 fines per person for gatherings. The definition of a gathering and the relevance of ticketing offenders will be at the discretion of police officers.
Farmers and agricultural workers
Prime Minister Trudeau thanked agricultural workers who are feeding our families. He understands that our agricultural producers rely on migrant workers for planting and harvesting and that these workers will have to be quarantined for 14 days before they can start working.
However, he noted that many Canadians are currently out of work and will no doubt be interested in this employment opportunity.
Mr. Trudeau also understands the challenge for many students who are looking for summer jobs, and said that they could help farmers continue to feed Canadians. He added that announcements will be made in the coming weeks to encourage employment in agriculture, food processing and the fisheries.
Canadian Emergency Response Benefit
Mr. Trudeau reiterated that as of tomorrow, Canadians will be able to register for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. Direct deposits will take 3 to 5 days, while payments through the mail will take up to 10 days. He stated that the government’s IT systems are capable of managing the anticipated number of applications.
He also explained that the government is working to find a solution for workers who are still employed, in essential services, but are making less than the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit for people who are unemployed due to the pandemic.
The prime minister stated that Canada will continue to receive the drugs required to respond to needs during the COVID-19 crisis. “We will work with our partners around the world to ensure that people have everything they need,” he said.
Health experts and reservists
Prime Minister Trudeau also put out an urgent call for volunteers who have health expertise to lend a hand to healthcare workers.
The federal department of Health is establishing a directory of specialized volunteers who could assist doctors and nurses. People interested in enrolling can do so online until April 24.
In this same spirit, reservists will be called on by the Canadian Armed Forces for service in order to assist with the military effort while the army is called on for reinforcement in certain regions. Reservists will receive the same pay and benefits as regular Armed Forces personnel.