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February 9, 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.

New restrictions at land borders

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new restrictions, as of February 15, on access to the country across the land border with the United States for non-essential travel.

A first measure will require travelers to present to Canadian customs officials a negative COVID-19 test that was conducted within 72 hours prior to entering the country. Otherwise, given that the Canadian Constitution guarantees return to the country to all Canadians, a fine of $3,000 could be imposed.  Follow-up with health authorities could also be required.

The same obligation to provide a negative test has applied to travellers returning to the country by air since January 7, with the additional obligation of staying in a hotel, at the traveler’s expense, costing up to $2,000 per person while awaiting the results of their COVID-19 test upon their arrival at the airport. A negative result will allow these people to complete their quarantine at home, while a positive result will require them to go to a health facility.

Mr. Trudeau added that additional measures will be announced shortly with respect to non-essential travel across land borders.

Additional measures for spring break

Québec Premier François Legault announced the possible introduction of new restrictions during the spring break in order to limit social gatherings and travel that could lead to outbreaks and contagion.

Mr. Legault stated that he is concerned because usually “people move around a lot, even when they stay in Québec.” The premier stressed that spring break is not the time to organize activities with other families or to ask grandparents to look after grandchildren.

The additional measures will be announced shortly and could even apply to the orange zones.

Mr. Legault said that police barricades to prevent inter-regional travel are being considered, as is maintaining the curfew, presently in effect until February 22.

Six million vaccine doses expected

The prime minister stated that despite the delays in producing and receiving doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, Canada will receive six million doses from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March, as planned.

Mr. Trudeau said that the government will receive 20 million doses over the spring. He confirmed again that all Canadians who wish to will be able to get vaccinated by September.

South African variant in Abitibi-Témiscamingue

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, confirmed that two people have been infected with the South African variant of COVID-19, which is much more contagious and deadly.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Québec’s ability to identify the variants of COVID-19 has increased from 3% to 8% thanks to testing, and Québec plans to increase this soon to 10%, and eventually to 15%, said Dr. Arruda.

At this level, Québec will rank among the top countries in the world for identifying COVID-19 variants, after Denmark, which has already attained a level of 18%.

Interpretation permitted for CERB

The prime minister said that the government will allow people who mistakenly submitted their gross income rather than their net income when applying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to not have to reimburse it if they met the other eligibility criteria.

Mr. Trudeau agreed that there was a certain lack of precision in the requirements regarding net income and gross income. Additional deadlines for making reimbursements have also been granted in the context of the pandemic.

Rapid tests

Prime Minister Trudeau again invited the provinces to use the 19.6 million rapid detection tests they have received.

Mr. Trudeau reiterated that during the pandemic testing is important in order to limit the spread of the virus.