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July 27, 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.

Appeal to youth

The deputy premier and minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, and the minister of Health, Christian Dubé, called on young adults to mobilize so that the health situation remains under control in Québec.

The new outbreak of cases in Québec is mostly associated with youth between the ages of 15 and 34. The problem lies primarily with gatherings in bars, house parties, group sports and social activities.

“It would wrong to assume that youth are immune to COVID-19,” said the deputy premier. She called on youth to respect social distancing and to wear a face covering.

Fines for people who fail to wear masks

The anti-mask demonstrations over the last few days are prompting the government to tighten the rules for people who refuse to wear a mask in closed public spaces, which has been mandatory since July 18 across Québec. The fines will range from $400 to $6,000.

Ms Guilbault thanked the population for respecting this new protective measure. As for offenders, she reiterated that if they do not wish to wear a mask for their own protection, they should do so for the protection of others.

When in doubt, get tested!

To limit the spread, the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, reiterated that if someone ends up too close to someone else and they have even the slightest doubt of the possibility of contagion, they should call health services and get tested.

Improved screening capacity

With improved screening capacity, it is now possible to test up to 20,000 people a day in Québec with a reasonable wait time, explained the minister of Health and Social Services.

“We managed to conduct over 16,000 tests a day last week. Waiting lines are being better managed and there are more places for people to go get tested,” said Christian Dubé.

10 people maximum at home

Public Health’s special advisor, Dr. Richard Massé, reiterated that the rule of a maximum of 10 people per private gathering, at home or in a yard, must be respected, as these gatherings are the most “dangerous” for contracting COVID-19.

“The risks of contagion are greater,” he said.

Dr. Massé explained that the maximum of 10 people was determined based on the standard size of homes and yards.

250 people at social and cultural events

Social and cultural gatherings with a maximum of 250 people will be permitted as of August 3 and based on experience, are safe even if zero risk does not exist.

“It has been noted elsewhere in the world, particularly in Europe, that these gatherings of 250 people do not cause any outbreaks as long as they follow health safety protocols,” explained Dr. Massé.

These gatherings are also an opportunity for people to resume a much needed social and cultural life.

Increased drownings

The deputy premier and minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, once again pointed to the significant increase in drownings this summer, related to the fact that Quebecers are staying in Québec. Moreover, the summer has been particularly hot so far and access to public swimming areas is restricted, which is prompting some people to find places to swim that are not necessarily suitable.

“Be prudent and wear your life jackets,” she said. “Each drowning is a tragedy.”

Tourism: problematic conduct

With the pandemic having forced the population to stay in Québec, tourism in Gaspésie has had some unfortunate consequences, with people going wilderness camping in fragile ecosystems, areas that are prohibited or on beaches.

Ms Guilbault stated that the police presence has been increased in the regions affected, particularly in Gaspé, since Friday, and that the situation is returning to normal.

Ready for a second wave

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, explained that all of Québec is ready to face a possible second wave, whether in terms of staffing in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) or in hospitals as well as in terms of the supply of personal protective equipment, gloves, gowns, medical masks, not to mention screening capacity.

COVID-19 “SWAT team”

Minister Dubé added that in retrospect, the health system was able to develop a new approach to better counter outbreaks in health establishments with the deployment of “SWAT teams” from Montréal university hospitals.

These special teams provide management and intervention experience in hospitals dealing with their first outbreaks, which improves the efficiency of the intervention and reduces the spread.