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July 6, 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.

Warning of fines and closures

The new minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, issued a warning to owners of bars, terraces and beaches as well as to racecar track operators. As of next weekend, establishments will be subject to fines and closures to ensure that Public Health guidelines are respected in terms of physical distancing, handwashing and the wearing of masks.

Recently, several outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred in bars, which has prompted the government to adopt regulations to empower police to issue fines to offending businesses and individuals.

The Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ), the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), Public Security and Public Health will establish protocols for issuing these fines and closures.

Minister Dubé stated that there will be a strong police presence in these establishments as of Thursday.

Reversing the trend

For the first time in several weeks, there was a rise in recorded cases over the weekend, while the downward trend was maintained in Québec in terms of the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19.

“This is a reversal of the trend,” noted Minister Dubé, who expressed his concern, citing the resurgence of cases in the southern United States, particularly among youth in bars and terraces and on beaches.

This is proof that the virus is still present in Québec and that it is important to continue to respect the guidelines of regular handwashing, physical distancing of two metres and wearing a mask as often as possible when necessary, and without fail on public transit.

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stated that both youth and adults are failing to respect the guidelines.

He also stated that he will not hesitate to be the “bad guy” by shutting down sectors of activity if necessary.

Favouring telework

The director of Public Health is still recommending telework over working in offices during the summer.

While originally the plan to ease isolation measures included, along with the resumption of economic activities, a gradual return of 40% of employees to the workplace, this is now no longer the case.

“Plans for a gradual return will be announced when the time is right,” said Dr. Arruda.

Double threat this fall

The Québec government is already implementing a mobilization plan to prepare for the double health threat that is feared this fall with the simultaneous arrival of the seasonal flu and a potential second wave of COVID-19.

“Pharmacists will be able to vaccinate people this fall. People living in seniors’ residences are most at risk. Vaccination clinics are planned for this high-risk group,” said Dr. Arruda.

He reiterated that the efficacy of vaccinations varies from year to year depending on the strains of the virus.

Difficult situation at the Lakeshore General Hospital

Minister Christian Dubé is “extremely concerned’ about the situation facing nurses at the Lakeshore General Hospital, in Pointe-Claire, who staged three brief work stoppages over the weekend to denounce their overwork and staff shortages.

“I discussed this with Minister Sonia LeBel, Chair of the Treasury Board […] I’m very concerned about the situation. We have to speed up negotiations with the Québec federation of nurses. We can find solutions,” he said.