| News

December 22, 2021 – Updates by the federal and provincial governments on the COVID-19 pandemic

The following is an update on recent decisions and actions by the federal and provincial governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New measures starting December 26

François Legault, Premier of Québec, Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and  Horacio Arruda, National Director of Public Health in Québec, announced additional health measures in response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases. These measures will come into effect on Sunday, December 26.

The number of people permitted to attend private indoor gatherings will be reduced from 10 to six. Mr. Legault is asking that gatherings be restricted to two bubbles (two families). This directive will also apply in restaurants.

“We are going to experience a tough period, but it’s not the first time we have been through a big challenge,” the Premier said. “In the coming days, we will need each other. We are letting 10 people who absolutely want to get together do so, but on the other hand I am asking all Quebecers who are able to postpone their Holiday celebrations to do so.”

Epidemiological situation in Québec

More than 9,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported on December 22, a record since the start of the pandemic. Screening capacity is now at 50,000 tests per day.

The rate of vaccination in Québec has also increased to 88,000 doses per day. People aged 65 and over should get their third dose. Those aged 60 to 64 will be able to make their appointment starting this coming Monday.

“Seventy percent of people hospitalized due to COVID are over 60 years old,” Mr. Legault noted. “These are the most vulnerable. The best thing is to stay at home. If you want to meet with someone, you have to realize that there is a risk.”

Ways to lessen the risks include reducing contacts with other people, maintaining physical distancing and ventilating the area.

New guidelines at screening clinics

Screening clinics are experiencing high demand at the moment.

From now on, access to them will be restricted to symptomatic people who do not have rapid tests at home and to symptomatic people whose rapid-test result is positive.

People who have no symptoms but have a positive rapid-test result should isolate at home.

People who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 no longer need to be tested if they have no symptoms. However, they must self-isolate for 10 days.

From now on, people will receive their test result by e-mail, even if it is positive. They will then be responsible themselves for notifying those they have been in contact with.

Millions of rapid tests by the New Year

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough, announced that his government will distribute millions of rapid tests to the provinces by the New Year.

For her part, Ms. Freeland said the federal government intends to temporarily expand eligibility for key support programs to protect Canadians and ensure workers and businesses receive the help they need to deal with the new public health restrictions required.

“The Omicron variant is a real and serious threat to the health and safety of Canadians and the capacity of our health care system,” Ms. Freeland said. “In light of the public-health situation and new restrictions in a number of provinces, we are temporarily expanding eligibility for key support measures offered for workers and businesses.”

Local Lockdown Program

  • To include employers subject to capacity-limiting restrictions of 50% or more.
  • Would reduce the current-month revenue decline threshold requirement to 25%.
  • Eligible employers will receive wage and rent subsidies from 25% up to a maximum of 75%, depending on their degree of revenue loss.
  • The 12-month revenue decline test is still not required to qualify for this support measure.

Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit

  • To include workers in areas where provincial and territorial governments have introduced capacity-limiting restrictions of 50% or more.
  • This benefit will provide $300 a week in income support to eligible workers who are directly affected by a COVID-19-related public health lockdown, and who have lost 50 per cent or more of their income as a result.

These updated regulations will apply from December 19, 2021, to February 12, 2022.

Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program

The federal government is launching the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program to help hotels, tour operators, travel agencies and restaurants. This program will provide support through wage and rent subsidies of up to 75%.

Hardest-Hit-Business Recovery Program

The Canadian government is also introducing the Hardest-Hit-Business Recovery Program, providing support through wage and rent subsidies to other businesses that have faced deep losses, with a subsidy rate of up to 50%.

Canada Recovery Hiring Program

The federal government is announcing the extension of the Canada Recovery Hiring Program until May 7, 2022, for eligible employers whose current revenue losses exceed 10%, and the increase of the subsidy rate to 50%. This extension will help businesses continue to hire back workers, increase hours, and create the additional jobs Canada needs for a robust recovery.

Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit

The Government of Canada is announcing the extension of the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit until May 7, 2022, and the increase in the maximum duration of benefits by two weeks. This extends the caregiving benefit to 44 from 42 weeks and the sickness benefit to six from four weeks. It is now possible to apply retroactively for periods between November 21, 2021, and December 11, 2021.

Epidemiological situation in Canada

The Omicron variant is responsible for the rapid increase in the number of cases.

With more than 2,360 confirmed cases of Omicron to date, this variant is now predominant in several parts of the country.

Over the past week, an average of more than 1,500 people with COVID-19 have been treated each day in Canadian hospitals, including nearly 460 in intensive care units. Seventeen deaths were reported each day.