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February 2, 2021 – 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.

Lockdown and curfew extended; businesses to reopen

Québec Premier François Legault announced that the lockdown and curfew will be maintained until at least February 22. Malls and businesses will be able to reopen as of Monday, while following health rules. This includes hairdressers and museums. Gatherings in homes are still banned, but outdoor activities will be permitted for a maximum of four people from different addresses.

Mr. Legault explained that these more relaxed measures are still limited because even though the spread of the virus has improved greatly, with fewer cases and hospitalizations, the situation in hospitals continues to be difficult and will remain so for some time.

“The situation is improving, which is encouraging. […] Unfortunately, the battle has not yet been won. Everyday, 34% of surgeries have to be postponed in Québec. At present, we’re not catching up, instead our waiting lists are growing longer,” said the premier.

Mr. Legault reiterated that healthcare workers have been on the frontlines for 11 months, that the health crisis is not over yet and that the next step will be to address the offloading of surgeries.

“Ending the lockdown will be a gradual and very slow process,” he said.

Six orange zones and 11 red

Six remote regions, namely, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Nord-du-Québec and Côte-Nord, are transitioning to orange while the 11 other zones in Québec are remaining at maximum alert, in the red zone.

In the orange zones, restaurant dining rooms will be able to reopen as of Monday, with a limit of two adults with children. A register will have to be kept to ensure that reservations come from people living in the orange zone, and a two-metre distance will have to be maintained between tables. Cinemas, theatres and performance venues will be able to resume their activities as of February 26. Orange zones will also permit outdoor gatherings of eight people, the reopening of fitness centres and the resumption of indoor sports.

Reopening of CECEPs and universities

In order to enable students to return to the classroom at least once a week, CEGEPs and universities will be allowed to reopen their doors to students if they want to, but this will not be imposed. Health rules will have to be followed.

March break as scheduled

While Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge confirmed this afternoon that, in keeping with the obligation to respect teachers’ collective agreements, the March break will be maintained, Premier Legault stated that people should not be renting cottages in order to gather with other vacationing families.

“During March break, the situation will continue to be difficult and fragile. […] We’re still recommending that people not travel between regions and not mix family bubbles,” said Mr. Legault.

Canadian-produced vaccines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the production of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada by the end of the summer thanks to agreements reached with Novavax, VIDO-Intervac and Precision NanoSystems.

Mr. Trudeau stated that Novavax will produce “tens of millions of doses right here in Canada” as soon as its vaccine is approved by Health Canada. The application for regulatory approval, submitted last Friday states that the clinical trials for its vaccine have established that it is 89% effective.

Its facility at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), in Montréal, should be ready by the end of the summer. “Once the facility has been certified, Novavax will be able to manufacture some two million doses of all kinds of vaccines per month,” said Mr. Trudeau. The government has reserved 52 million doses, with the option of 24 million additional doses.

The prime minister said that the manufacture of vaccines here in Canada is a big step forward for Canadians, but also for other countries in need of vaccines.

Mr. Trudeau also added that the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan is also planning to build a facility to produce up to 40 million doses of the vaccine a year.

The company Precision NanoSystems in Vancouver plans to build a manufacturing plant capable of producing up to 240 million vaccine doses a year, as of 2023.

European supply guaranteed

 Canada’s national vaccine production capacity is not being put in place to offset a potential shortage in the supply of vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech in Europe, explained Mr. Trudeau.

“We will receive all of the vaccines planned,” he said. The federal government is supposed to receive 4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 2 million doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of March.