August 14, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic
Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Closure of the Canada-U.S. border extended
The U.S. and Canadian governments have extended the closure of the U.S. Canada border by another month.
Essential travel is still permitted while all non-essential travel, such as tourism and shopping, will continue to be prohibited until September 21. However, this restriction does not apply to the transportation of goods or to health workers.
The partial closure has been renewed on a monthly basis since mid-March. Until this announcement, the border was slated to be closed until August 20.
Distribution of food surpluses
The federal government announced a $50-million agreement with eight organizations, including Food Banks Canada and La Tablée des Chefs, so that surplus food production as a result of the pandemic is shipped to organizations that prepare and distribute meals to families and individuals in need.
For example, over one million dozen eggs will be shipped, at cost, to various organizations across the country. La Tablée de Chefs will receive over 350,000 kg of surplus products that Les Cuisines solidaires du Québec will use to prepare meals. Some 12 million kilograms of food will find its way to kitchens instead of being thrown out.
The challenge of retuning to school
Québec Premier François Legault explained that the challenge this fall, in addition to the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic, will be the return to school and the risk of new outbreaks.
He explained that if there are outbreaks in the schools, the challenge will be to quickly identify those infected and to trace anyone who has been in contact with them. Mr. Legault offered assurances about the current capacity to test over 20,000 people a day. Québec has enough reagents and swabs to ensure this testing capacity.
Premier Legault also stated that he was shocked to learn that people receiving the three-month training to become patient attendants have still not been paid for their training since June 15.
“This is completely unacceptable. Some of these people quit their jobs to start a new career”, he said.
He called on his staff to quickly remedy the situation.
Public education on wearing masks
Mr. Legault finds it unacceptable that poorly informed merchants are not allowing children who are not wearing masks to enter their stores. This occurred yesterday to a mother with her two-year-old son.
The premier reiterated that experts have prohibited children two years of age or under from wearing a mask, since it could pose a risk for them. Children between the ages of two and 12 (10 years of age as of next week) are not required to wear a mask, although it is recommended.
Mr. Legault is counting on public education to avoid these situations. “We’re spending a lot on public awareness. But some merchants have misunderstood.”
Air travel and testing
While touring Northern Québec, Premier Legault mentioned two major challenges for the population of the region in the event of a second wave of the pandemic: ensuring air travel for people infected to hospitals in the south of the province and testing capacity.
The challenge of air transportation has arisen since Air Canada decided to stop almost all of its connections to remote regions. Mr. Legault reiterated that the government considers air transportation in the regions an essential service. He is currently negotiating agreements with regional carriers who will receive subsidies in exchange for guaranteed frequency and reasonable fares for travellers.
Immigrant status for guardian angels
The Canadian government has loosened the rules for immigrants who have served as guardian angels in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) during the pandemic.
“This is what I asked the federal government for a few months ago,” said Mr. Legault. Among the conditions required, immigrants will be able to obtain official status provided that they have worked 120 hours in a CHSLD.