April 6, 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.
The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, reminded us of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy two years ago, and stressed the fact that we all need our family and friends during difficult times, like the hard times we are living through now. He added that no one should feel alone during this crisis and that we are going to get through it, together.
He noted that we have had to virtually put our economy on hold to get through this health crisis and that we must bring it to an end so that we can revive the Canadian economy as soon as possible. He stated that the weeks and months ahead will be difficult and that predictions vary depending on the actions of individuals in respecting the guidelines and staying home.
The premier of Québec, François Legault, stressed that the month of April will be decisive in the battle against this pandemic.
Canadian Emergency Response Benefit
Mr. Trudeau announced that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit is being offered as of today to those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. You can apply now, online, or by phone (1-800-959-2041). Already, some 240,000 people are registered.
He added that his government is reviewing the cases of people who do not qualify for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit so that they too can access this benefit, namely those who work part time, volunteer firefighters, certain artists and even workers in senior residences who earn less than $2,000 a month. The government will also provide assistance to students who are looking for summer jobs.
“Regardless of your situation, we are working for you. We want people to continue working.”
Mr. Trudeau stated that this is the largest aid package in Canada’s history and that some measures will need to be fine-tuned.
Investment in training
The Québec government is investing an additional $100 M in businesses that have curbed their operations or shut down due to the pandemic so that they can offer remote training to their employees, particularly with respect to telework and digital proficiency. Salaries will be paid.
“In the knowledge economy, it’s important to know how to take advantage of the current situation to provide training because things will change a great deal when we get back to normal,” said Mr. Legault.
The prime minister of Canada stated that his government is working with the provinces to determine their equipment inventory and to understand the needs that must be met so that healthcare workers have all the necessary protection to keep them safe while doing their jobs.
He added that discussions are ongoing with the U.S. administration to maintain trade in the supply of raw materials, manufactured goods and shipping services between the two countries.
The Canadian government is now recommending that people wear homemade or non-medical masks when they go to the grocery store or the pharmacy or when using public transit.
However, this additional measure must not lead to a relaxation in following the directives on hygiene (hand washing), home confinement and social distancing during essential outings or health walks.
The premier of Québec pointed out that the current inventory of gloves is 14 days, 13 days for N95 masks, 10 days for procedure masks and five days for gowns. Washable gowns are increasingly being used.
The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, warned that non-medical masks should only be used to protect others when you are sick, or when social distancing is impossible for a short period of time, such as when using public transit. The mask must be worn properly, held in place and adjusted tightly.
“The danger is that when wearing a mask, we forget about the other guidelines.”
The minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, stated that the inventory of the list of essential drugs, particularly for respiratory infections and sedation, is currently being drawn up and reiterated that all orders will now be centralized with the Ministère instead of being managed by institutions.
The objective is to procede with a large order for all of Québec, in collaboration with various supplier associations and the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance. The portrait of the current situation will be presented as soon as possible.
Minister McCann reiterated that semi-urgent surgeries will resume today in all hospitals, specifying however that some semi-urgent surgeries, for example those that take seven to eight hours, will still have to wait. Urgent surgeries have been and will continue to be maintained.
Minister McCann stated that the directives are clear with respect to those accompanying people at the end of life and that numbers must be limited to one person at a time. She added that we must trust the judgement of people working in palliative care and in hospitals when it comes to this form of support.
The premier of Québec, François Legault, pointed out that only the Jewish General Hospital in Montréal is not permitting accompaniment during delivery due to the high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. He added that the government does not plan to extend this directive to other hospitals. Pregnant women who are being followed at this hospital can change hospitals so that their partner can accompany them during delivery.
Comparison with Sweden
When questioned about the example of Sweden, where schools have remained open, Québec’s national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, responded that we are facing a new virus and there is evidence that it could have serious consequences for our health. “Our values in Québec put health front and centre, regardless of our age or state of health and, consequently, it’s important to protect everyone.” He stressed that it would be better to compare Québec with countries that have big cities like Montréal or Toronto, where social distancing can be a real challenge.
Premier Legault pointed out that this Scandinavian country does not have cities comparable in size to Montréal, and that these factors must be taken into account when analyzing the situation.
Tomorrow, Public Health will unveil projections on the progression of the pandemic in Québec in the weeks to come. Dr. Arruda said that scientists are not comfortable making these projections, because there are too many unknowns in the current context, but he will do so, at the request of the premier.
“I have already experienced this reticence in business and I understand the experts. But, personally, I prefer to have projections even if they are imperfect, rather than no projections at all. It still helps us prepare, and to know where we’re going,” said Mr. Legault.
Virtual parliamentary work
The prime minister of Canada stated that his teams are in the process of looking for ways to bring the members of Parliament together virtually, even during a crisis, so that our democracy can continue to function and remain solid, especially in a time of crisis.
The premier of Québec is also in discussion with the leaders of the opposition to explore the possibility of having members of the National Assembly sit in session virtually.
Mr. Trudeau highlighted the work of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce for its support to businesses to help them get through this difficult time and revive the economy once this crisis is over.
Today, Mr. Legault thanked all Quebecers who are following the directives and staying home.
“I am proud of the people of Québec.”