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August 3, 2020 – 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.

Back from vacation? Get tested!

The minister of Health and Social services, Christian Dubé, is encouraging people returning from vacation to get tested if they have even the slightest doubt that they may have COVID-19 symptoms or if they put themselves in a risky situation, intentionally or unintentionally.

“Screening is one of the most powerful tools to beat the virus,” said Minister Dubé. He also stated that the situation is under control in Québec at the moment, even though “things are still fragile.”

Improving the timeframe for receiving results

While screening capacity is increasing well, after having conducted over 18,000 tests in one day, the timeframe for issuing results must be improved so that people are not forced to

self-isolate at home for five days.

“It’s important for people who receive a diagnosis, whether positive or negative, to get their results as quickly as possible. Our logistics teams are working to improve the system,” said Minister Dubé.

Maximum of 10 people

Minister Dubé stressed the importance of respecting a maximum of 10 people for private gatherings, whether they occur in backyards or inside homes, given that the circumstances are too risky in the context of COVID-19 contagion.

Limit increased to 250 people in auditoriums

The minister of Health and Social Services also reiterated that the limit has been increased from 50 to 250 people in auditoriums as well as performance venues and movie theatres. Moreover, very strict standards must be upheld, such as wearing a mask when circulating in these venues and respecting 1.5-metre distancing between people who are not in the same bubble.

Dr. Horacio Arruda stated that these conditions cannot be loosened and, for the time being, constitute an acceptable compromise in the context of the pandemic even though festival and show organizers say that these rules are still too restrictive.

Mandatory wearing of masks

Minister Christian Dubé reiterated that the wearing of masks in closed public spaces must become the new social norm. He is proud to see Quebecers’ massive support in this process of social responsibility when it comes to hygiene.

“We have to set an example. Wearing a mask has become the norm. It shows respect for ourselves and respect for others,” he said.

He explained that the vast majority of people are respecting the guidelines. “It’s the people who are not respecting them as an act of defiance that worries me. We have to rise to the challenge of wearing a mask,” said the minister.

Christian Dubé stressed that the government made the decision not to hand out fines to people who refuse to wear a mask in closed public spaces and to favour an approach based on popular support.

Reassessing the wearing of masks in high schools

The protocol for returning to the classroom in a few weeks will be announced shortly and will differ from what was established in June.

“The situation has evolved since then. The wearing of masks has been reassessed for high-school students,” announced Minister Dubé who has been in discussion for several days with his counterpart in Education, Jean-François Roberge.

Dr. Arruda stated that the situation is better controlled in the classroom than in the context of a visit to the grocery store, for example.

Construction of a new modular wing at the Lakeshore General Hospital

A new modular wing at the Lakeshore General Hospital will provide private rooms in the event of a second wave of COVID-19, as was announced yesterday for the Verdun Hospital.

Minister Dubé explained that it takes two to three years to renovate a hospital and that “the pandemic will not wait that long, whereas it only takes a few months to build a modular wing.”

This decision was made in light of the high rate of contagion in hospitals and residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) where three and even four residents were living in one room.

Collective challenge to reduce the number of cases

Minister Dubé hopes that Quebecers will make a collective effort to reduce the number of cases of people infected so that this number is as low as possible “when the second wave hits.”

“When Quebecers band together in a collective effort, we are successful,” said Mr. Dubé.

To achieve this goal, he reiterated the importance of respecting the guidelines for social distancing, the wearing of masks and handwashing.

Héma-Québec conducts serological investigation

The director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, indicated that Héma-Québec is completing a serological study and the results will be unveiled shortly in order to provide a clearer picture of the number of people actually infected with COVID-19.

In Ontario, the results for identifying the presence of COVID-19 antibodies show that there could be four times more cases of people infected than actually detected.

Dr. Arruda explained that the same type of results are expected in Québec and can be attributed to the fact that many people, especially youth, can be infected without developing any symptoms.