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July 10, 2020 – Provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Québec government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Risk of a second wave

Premier François Legault drove home the point that Quebecers must continue to follow health guidelines, particularly in light of the rapid spread of COVID-19 in three of the United States’ largest southern states, namely, Florida, Texas and California.

“I understand that it’s not ideal (to wear a mask), but it’s a lot better than going back into isolation. […] With the vacation period approaching, many Quebecers will be travelling within the province. That’s a good thing, but there’s still a risk. We have to make special efforts to follow the rules of physical distancing and the wearing of a mask,” said Mr. Legault.

The current resurgence of cases, even though it is still too early to talk about a second wave, is cause for “some concern.”

There is still a real danger

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, issued a warning to Quebecers who think the worst is behind us.

“This is a devious virus that is still spreading in the community,” he said, while reiterating that people can unknowingly transmit the virus.

Dr. Arruda also reminded those who think COVID-19 is a “conspiracy,” that there have been thousands of deaths in the province due to the coronavirus since mid-March.

“We have no right to make light of this,” he said. He also added that fines could be necessary if offenders continue to flout the rules, citing the example of the use of seatbelts in vehicles or driving under the influence.

Faster economic recovery in Québec

Premier François Legault announced good economic news based on the unemployment figures released this morning. The unemployment rate is now at 10.7%, down from 13.7% in May.

“This is even better than in the rest of Canada where the unemployment rate is now 12.3%. Québec managed to recreate more jobs. It’s a good start and we need it to continue,” he said.

He stressed that this is even more significant because Québec’s current unemployment rate is double what it was before the pandemic, a mere four months ago.

3,000 new places in seniors’ residences

Reiterating his plea that the government must be able to ensure the completion of much-needed infrastructure projects in a more timely fashion, Mr. Legault said that 3,000 places must be created in Québec’s residences, requiring a $2.5-billion budget.

“Our seniors deserve better treatment,” he said.

He noted that hundreds of seniors in Québec are still living in rooms with two and even three people.

“This is unacceptable in 2020,” he said.

Differentiated wages to be accepted

As negotiations to renew collective agreements for 500,000 public-sector workers are underway, Mr. Legault reiterated that, for the first time, workers are being offered differentiated wages, which does not appeal to unions.

The government is proposing, over three years, a 12% increase in wages for patient attendants, and 7% for other workers. The government also wants to see more full-time than part-time jobs. At the moment, 50% of healthcare staff work part time.

He reiterated that despite the increased budgets for the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux to hire more staff, the money was not disbursed because the positions were not filled.

Mr. Legault stressed that in the context of an historical deficit of $15 billion and a difficult economic situation, he hopes to be able to reach an agreement with unions soon so that collective agreements can be renewed.