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June 8, 2020 – Federal and provincial government 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.

Restaurants to reopen

Restaurants will be able to reopen next Monday across Québec, with the exception of Greater Montréal and the Joliette region, where activities will be permitted to resume one week later, on June 22.

New rules will have to be respected according to the norms set out by the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), namely, the wearing of masks and shields as well as physical distancing for staff and in dining areas.

The reopening of restaurants, closed since March 23, is now possible as part of the gradual easing of isolation measures, which has been going well as seen by the steady decrease in contagion rates, hospitalizations and COVID-19-related deaths.

“It’s very encouraging,” said the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, who pointed out that the rate of contagion has been decreasing since the easing of isolation measures a few weeks ago.

Indoor gatherings authorized

Premier Legault announced that indoor gatherings will also be authorized in private homes according to the same outdoor model of a maximum of 10 people living at three different addresses.

Bars will have to wait

Premier Legault said that bars will have to wait to reopen.

Dr. Horacio Arruda reiterated that consuming alcohol during meals is not the same thing as consuming alcohol in a bar where physical distancing is more difficult to maintain.

Downtown merchants to receive financial assistance

The government also announced additional assistance for merchants in downtown Montréal who have been doubly penalized by the pandemic due to telework practices adopted by companies, leaving skyscrapers devoid of employees.

Premier Legault stressed that with the additional programs announced today, Québec is the most generous province to come to the aid of its merchants.

Current federal and provincial programs reimburse 50% of commercial rents to owners who must assume 25% of their losses while tenants must pay the remaining 25%. Downtown, the new proposal will provide owners with additional assistance of 12.5% for rent.

“My goal is to save as many businesses as possible in Québec and to restart the economy as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Legault.

Rethinking the return to school

The easing of isolation measures in schools has been so successful that Dr. Arruda said that the norms for returning to school in September will be revised based on the favourable results.

The conditions of physical distancing, wearing face coverings, disinfecting games and facilities as well as handwashing will be less stringent for children.

Anti-racism protest

Premier Legault said that he preferred to not ban the important anti-racism protests that have been taking place on weekends, even if they contravene the rules regarding gatherings and other health criteria to stop the contagion of COVID-19.

“I have chosen not to ban them. I understand very well why Quebecers feel the need to protest. They’ve had enough. I’m not encouraging protest, but I’m not banning it,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who participated in a protest in Ottawa last Friday, said that it is important for people to express their opinions, even during the pandemic, as long as they respect health guidelines, so that we can “build a better world.”

“People feel a profound need to protest in support of people who face discrimination,” he said.

Limited reopening of the Canada-U.S. border

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that spouses as well as parents of minors will be able to enter the country from the United States in order to reunite families.

However, foreign nationals will have to follow a strict 14-day quarantine once they enter Canada.