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June 25, 2020 – Federal and provincial 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.

Near total lifting of isolation measures

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, announced the last stage in the lifting of isolation measures for the population, with almost all activities permitted according to the rules of social distancing and hygiene, with the exception of large events, sleep-away vacation camps and combat sports, which are still prohibited.

The resumption of activities is authorized as of today for bars, waterparks and attractions, casinos, spas and accommodation, where common kitchens will remain closed.

Bar patrons must remain seated in order to respect physical distancing.

Concern over slackening respect for hygiene rules

Québec’s national director of Public Health stated that he is concerned about slackening respect for hygiene rules generally observed all over Québec right now.

While the gradual lifting of isolation measures has prevented an uptick in contagion, he is concerned that the current conduct will cause a new wave of contagion.

Dr. Arruda is worried that this behaviour will “cost us dearly in the fall, or even earlier,” in the event of a second wave of contagion.

Provinces failed the elderly

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blames the provinces for having failed in their responsibility to protect vulnerable seniors and stated that the federal government will participate in finding solutions.

He stated that he is deeply concerned by the data revealed in a recent report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) showing that Canada recorded the highest proportion of COVID-19-related deaths in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) among the 17 countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It is about double the average of the other countries.

“It’s the responsibility (of the provinces) and they failed to properly protect our seniors during the pandemic. I’m deeply concerned. That’s why we’re offering $14 million […] to improve the situation. And we hope that the provinces will accept this money and make the necessary changes,” he said.

Weekly reports

Québec Public Health will no longer issue daily reports on the pandemic’s contagion as of today, and instead will provide weekly reports, as long as the situation remains under control.

Dr. Arruda said that the weekly results will be more accurate, even if health experts follow up daily on this data.

Prime Minister Trudeau was critical of this change.

“I think that in Québec there are still new cases every day. And it’s important to know if the situation is evolving.”

Masks mandatory on Montréal’ public transit networks?

Dr. Horacio Arruda said that it is possible that wearing a mask will become mandatory on Montréal’s public transit networks, given the difficulty of respecting a physical distance of two metres and a slackening of respect for protective measures among the population.

Student bursaries

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new assistance for students with the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG). It will enable post-secondary students and new graduates who would like to volunteer in their communities to receive $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the number of hours of volunteer work they do between June 18 and September 15, 2020. This will be a onetime payment.

Details on this program for post-secondary students and new graduates are available on the new I Want to Help platform.

Mr. Trudeau explained that due to COVID-19, students are facing unique challenges with fewer summer jobs available. Meanwhile, non-profit organizations are reporting an increase in demand for their services. The program will help to align the needs of youths looking for income and experience in the community with the needs of these organizations.

$246 M for paid internships

The federal government announced $246 M for youth to access paid internships this summer. The program will cover 20,000 internships for post-secondary students for a total of $186 M as well as 10,000 jobs for youth between the ages of 15 and 30 under the Canada Summer Jobs program.

$110 M for research

Some 139 scientific research teams fighting COVID-19 will share a special $110-M fund following a competition held in April to fund new research into the pandemic.

Mr. Trudeau said that Canada has established itself as a world leader in innovation, aerospace, artificial intelligence, technologies and health. These funds will help to maintain this leadership.

Review of the screening strategy

The director of Montréal Public Health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, stated that a review of the screening strategy is underway because the population is responding less and there are fewer cases.

Dr. Drouin noted that the contagion is “at its lowest ebb” and Public Health is developing a strategy to increase the use of tests on short notice in the event of a resurgence of contagion.