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December 1, 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.

Two Christmas gatherings now at risk

Québec Premier François Legault warned Quebecers that the current resurgence of contagion, which would be the peak of the second wave, is jeopardizing the two gatherings planned for the Holidays, from December 24 to 27.

“We’re not going in the right direction. If this continues, it won’t be possible to have two Christmas gatherings,” said Mr. Legault.

The decision will be based primarily on the state of healthcare workers who are already exhausted after nine months of pandemic. Over 6,500 healthcare workers are currently absent from work for medical or preventive reasons due to COVID-19.

The cancellation or confirmation of these two gatherings, with a maximum of 10 people, from December 24 to 27, will be announced on Friday, December 11.

Hospitals reaching the saturation point

To illustrate the deterioration of the healthcare network, Mr. Legault identified four hospitals, namely, Pierre-Le-Gardeur (Terrebonne), Trois-Rivières, Pierre-Boucher (Longueuil) and Chicoutimi, that are on the brink of saturation, which will force them to divert resources away from other departments in order to care for COVID-19 patients.

The situation is even more worrisome due to the fact that there is always less hospital staff during the Holidays, and hospitals are usually overloaded in January, notwithstanding the pandemic.

Expedience is the name of the game

Mr. Legault asked Quebecers to do their “shopping as fast as possible” so that it can be wrapped up before the voluntary seven-day isolation period leading up to Christmas. He also called on Quebecers to avoid social gatherings with friends and neighbours with whom they have had very little contact for months due to the pandemic.

Expert immunization committee

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a committee of experts and renowned scientists to determine who will be prioritized during the largest vaccination campaign in Canada’s history.

“Canadians expect this campaign to be equitable. Politicians will not be the ones to decide,” said Mr. Trudeau.

The experts will also determine the impact of the vaccines retained, which could have particular effects depending on a person’s age.

In Québec, the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, stated that the members of the Immunization Committee will make a recommendation to Public Health with respect to order of priority.

Accelerated approval process

Prime Minister Trudeau explained that Health Canada has accelerated the approval process for COVID-19 vaccines so that they can be available as soon as possible and immunization can begin.

The vaccines of four major pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are under study for approval.

Mandatory vaccination

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacia Arruda, stressed that people who have recovered from COVID-19 will still have to be vaccinated, since they are not considered immunized against the virus.