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December 18, 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.

Lakeshore General Hospital in critical condition

Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé announced that 10 hospitals in Québec, including the Lakeshore General Hospital, are currently in a critical situation due to the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases they are treating.

The other hospitals are: Chicoutimi (Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean), CHUQ (Enfant-Jésus) and IUCPQ (Québec City), Trois-Rivières (MCQ), Pierre-Boucher and Anna-Laberge (Montérégie), Verdun, Hull (Outaouais) and CHUS (Sherbrooke).

Mr. Dubé stated that the rate of hospitalization for pandemic-related cases has increased by 50% in three weeks and that presently 1,000 people are occupying hospital beds due to COVID-19.

Minister Christian Dubé called on Quebecers to go to emergency or clinics only “if it’s really necessary,” given the situation in the hospitals.

The government specified that there are 2,400 beds allocated for COVID-19 if needed. Already, in Québec City, rooms and reception rooms will be transformed to accommodate beds for COVID-19 patients.

Hitting “a wall” in January

While the number of cases has plateaued at 1,800 per day, the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, and the director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, are worried that the number of hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise to the point that, in January, the hospital system will hit “a wall” if health rules are not followed during the Holidays.

They stressed that the sacrifices during the Holidays are being called for to unclog emergency rooms. “Please, do not find ways to not follow the health rules,” said the minister, who called on those who are planning on cheating to think about those in the hospitals, both patients and healthcare workers, as well as all those whose surgeries and treatments will have to be postponed.

Both officials called on people to not “party during the Holidays.” Minister Dubé pointed to the high rate of alcohol purchases at the Société des alcools du Québec. “This is not a good sign. Those of you who’ve already bought alcohol for partying, please, keep it for later,” he said.

A long and difficult winter

While vaccines are starting to be distributed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also pleaded with Canadians to remain very vigilant and to follow the health rules during the winter in order to avoid contracting COVID-19.

“The year has already been difficult and we’re asking you again to make an effort. This is not the time to give up. Please continue following the guidelines. Christmas will not be the same this year, but let’s offer vigilance as a gift to our healthcare workers. If we all do our part, we’ll help save lives,” said Mr. Trudeau.

The prime minister said that the winter will be long and difficult for everyone and that everyone must make a sacrifice in the coming months in order to bring an end to the pandemic.

125,000 doses of vaccine per week

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that Canada will receive 125,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine per week starting in January.

In total, Canada should receive six million doses in the first quarter of 2021, which will make it possible to vaccinate three million people across the country.

Showing understanding for CERB recipients

While many people who benefitted from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) this year are receiving repayment notices from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Prime Minister Trudeau was reassuring in the days leading up to Christmas.

“We didn’t deliver support to those who needed it only to claw it back at Christmas. We’re here to help the most vulnerable. That’s the promise we made as a government and we’ll continue to be here to help,” said Mr. Trudeau.

The prime minister said that those who made a mistake in good faith do not have to worry about being penalized or having to pay interest and that the government will show flexibility.