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April 8, 2021 – Provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Québec government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic

8 p.m. curfew on the islands of Montréal and Laval starting Sunday

To prevent the feared explosion of cases linked to the new variants on the islands of Montréal and Laval due to their high-density populations, Québec Premier François Legault is rolling back the 9:30 curfew to 8 p.m. starting Sunday, until further notice.

Mr. Legault reiterated that surprisingly, while all experts and physicians were unanimous in predicting an explosion of cases in both of these regions—the two largest in Québec in terms of demographics—the number of new daily cases has been stable at about 350 over the last month.

“We have to salute the remarkable work of Dr. Mylène Drouin, the director of Public Health for the Montréal region, and her team,” said the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, in explaining these results.

Premier Legault added that this is the only additional measure that is being applied for these two regions. “Schools will remain open,” he said. The premier also hopes that they can stay open until the end of June, while stating that there are no guarantees. The decision to close schools will be a last resort and will only happen if the number of cases increases to the point that this become necessary.

Emergency measures extended

The situation is so serious in the Québec City region, Chaudière-Appalaches, Beauce and Outaouais that the government has extended emergency measures until April 18, inclusively. These measures were supposed to end on Sunday.

These regions are experiencing major outbreaks. “You can almost say that on every street, someone has COVID,” said the premier.

The emergency measures include an 8 p.m. curfew as well as the closure of non-essential businesses and all schools.

Regions at risk

The spread of the new variants is creating new challenges in four other regions, explained Mr. Legault, particularly in the Eastern Townships where there has been an upsurge in cases over the last few days.

“The region is under high surveillance. If the trend continues, the Eastern Townships will move into red next week,” said Mr. Legault.

The situation is the same in the Laurentians, Lanaudière and the Montérégie where the number of cases is less than in Montréal and Laval, but is edging closer to the numbers in the regions currently under emergency measures.

Mr. Legault warned that the explosion of cases can happen anywhere with the new variants that are “more contagious and more virulent.”

Vaccination campaign progressing well

Premier Legault is pleased with the pace in walk-in clinics on day one of this vaccination effort,  which will continue until Sunday, for people ages 55 and up who are accepting the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The premier thanked Quebecers for their decision as well as Public Health teams who managed to administer the vaccine even though the announcement was only made on Tuesday evening.

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, explained that as of Friday, appointments offered on Clic Santé will specify for each time slot whether or not the AstraZeneca vaccine will be administered in order to limit the possibility of people showing up and refusing inoculation due to the rare risk of thrombosis linked to this vaccine.

450 companies step up to the plate

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, announced that his call to companies to become additional vaccination hubs in May and June has been very well received.

Some 450 companies will take part in the mass vaccination effort in order to speed up the pace during these months, when the province will be receiving huge shipments of the vaccines. In June alone, Québec plans to vaccinate 4 million people.

The government is still predicting that all adult Quebecers who want to be vaccinated will be by June 24.

Summer camps under review

The director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, announced that Public Health is currently assessing the possibility of allowing summer camps given that the vaccination campaign will be more advanced by the summer.

“The teams are working on different scenarios, especially since camps can be held outdoors and measures can be applied for several families together. We’re trying to keep them running,” explained Dr. Arruda, without further indications about whether or not this will be possible.

Less risks for bus drivers

Dr. Arruda responded to the concerns of bus drivers in public transit networks who are not considered essential workers in Group 9 of the vaccination campaign since they are at less risk.

He explained the situation in the context of the limited number of vaccines available and the level of risk of being exposed to the virus and developing the disease.

Measures that are more complicated, but better adapted

Premier François Legault agreed that managing the pandemic and its three waves—imposing lockdowns then lifting them—has been exasperating for Quebecers, but that these changes are necessary and are happening all over the world.

He explained that a lockdown is designed to protect people’s physical health, while lifting it is designed to protect their mental health.

François Legault said that in all of the assessments and recommendations that are made, he always makes the final decision. This is his role as the leader of Québec.

Mr. Legault agreed that it would be simpler if there were only two measures to implement, but that they would be less adapted to the situation in each of the regions.

“I know it’s complicated, but I prefer measures that are complicated rather than poorly adapted,” said the premier.