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June 4, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update of the situation based on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gradual and limited return to outdoor team sports

Québec Premier François Legault and the minister for Education, Isabelle Charest, announced a gradual, limited and adapted return to all outdoor team sports as of June 8.

The return will take the form of outdoor training and skills competitions, while respecting the Public Health guidelines of physical distancing and handwashing.

“We need to be conscious of the fact that sports will not be played the same way this summer,” said Minister Charest. Some 30 sports federations are already working on formulating appropriate protocols.

The minister stated that she is very hopeful that players will be able to play real games, based on new game rules, by the end of June.

Individual sports and private pools

The minister and Olympic champion also confirmed that supervised outdoor individual sports, like yoga classes, will resume on June 8. The use of outdoor play structures and training equipment open to the public will also be permitted.

The same applies to outdoor private pools, particularly those on campgrounds, which can reopen on June 8.

Financial assistance for seniors

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced additional assistance of $300 to $500 for Old Age Security recipients, to be paid during the week of July 6. This is a one-time, non-taxable payment.

This $2.48-billion program seeks to compensate recipients for the additional expenses they incurred during the COVID-19 crisis. People who receive the guaranteed income supplement will receive an additional $200, for a total of $500.

Situation still serious

While data shows that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that the situation continues to be serious.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

Quebecers, particularly in the Montréal area, seem to be relaxing their compliance with health directives, in particular physical distancing and the use of face coverings.

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, associates this easing up with the “summer breeze” and the beginning of nice weather, pushing people to want to take advantage of their “parole.”

Mr. Legault warned the population: “No one wants to take a step backwards. Be prudent if you want to continue moving towards a more normal life.”

79,000 people registered

Premier François Legault is thrilled with the unexpected success of the paid training of patient attendants, which will start on June 15, for three months. He confirmed that 79,000 people have registered. “This is a nice problem to have,” he said, alluding to the fact that there are 10,000 jobs to fill.

A questionnaire will be sent to all those interested, in particular to validate their availability to work nights and evenings, as these jobs require.

With respect to the owners of private residences who are worried about an exodus of their staff toward the public sector, Mr. Legault stated that the government will have to provide support to small residences. However, he is waiting for big companies to establish a balance between the wages they offer and their profits.

Archaic system at the Ministère de la Santé

The Québec premier referred to operations at the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux as “archaic,” with its continued use, in 2020, of faxes and the postal service to send information.

Mr. Legault noted that for some 10 years, the Ministère’s computer networks have been underfunded. “There’s a lot of catching up to do. […] Reports are being done manually in 2020!” he said. He has committed to correcting these shortcomings.

Bill 61

François Legault defended the necessity of Bill 61, which seeks to extend the health state of emergency for two years in order to accelerate the completion of 202 public infrastructure projects valued at $14 billion.

He hopes that the economy will be relaunched and that no construction workers will be unemployed in the coming months due a shortage of projects.

Mr. Legault insisted that by accelerating the public approval process, he “does not want to reduce (government) requirements but rather reduce timeframes.”

New spit tests

While a rate of 14,000 to 16,000 tests is difficult to keep up, Premier Legault launched an appeal to all those who have doubts about the possibility of having been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19 to get tested.

Dr. Horacio Arruda announced that the volume of tests could be increased significantly this fall in anticipation of a second wave of contagion. A new and easier test based on using a saliva sample is currently being approved.

Presence of soldiers in CHSLDs

Discussions are ongoing between the federal and provincial governments on maintaining 1,000 soldiers from Operation Laser, deployed to provide emergency assistance in Québec’ s residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs).

Prime Minister Trudeau sought to reassure seniors: “Canada will be there for them.” Premier Legault stated that he is confident that the soldiers will remain deployed in Québec until mid-September, as he has requested.

Operation Laser is scheduled to end next week.