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March 27, 2020 – New measures by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

In the exceptional circumstances of the current health emergency, here is an update on recent decisions by federal and provincial public authorities in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.

Following a request by National Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda, Montréal Mayor Valérie Plante has announced a 16-hour public health state of emergency within the Montréal agglomeration.

This measure has become necessary due to community contagion on the island and for the protection of the homeless. Police officers are also being called on to more systematically intervene to enforce the rules of confinement and social distancing.

The regional director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, stressed that we must all be more rigorous in following the protective measures, even though the vast majority of the population is already doing so.

Mayor Plante added that the state of emergency is being declared so that the health crisis does not become a humanitarian crisis.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an important change in the financial assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), in which the wage subsidy will increase from 10 to 75%. This measure is retroactive to March 15, 2020. The emergency assistance program for businesses will also allow SMEs, depending on certain conditions, to obtain $40,000 interest-free bank loan for one year, guaranteed by the federal government. Based on certain criteria, $10,000 of these loans will not have to be paid back.

GST and QST payments by businesses are also being deferred until June 30, which will free up $30 billion for businesses.

For workers in Québec who earn less than $2,000 a month, Premier Legault has promised that they will be compensated so that their monthly earnings are equivalent to $2000, that is, the same financial compensation announced by Ottawa for people who have lost their jobs. “Continue working, but I agree that this does not seem fair. Trust me, we are going to compensate you. We will be making an announcement soon,” explained Premier Legault.

Mr. Legault also mentioned that the higher number of people infected in Québec compared with the other provinces can be explained by the fact that schools were closed sooner, in early March, and by the number of Quebecers who were travelling at that time.

Discussions are underway with Montréal officials about how to implement an emergency plan, since the rate of contagion on the island, along with the Eastern Townships, is higher than in any other region of Québec.

Yesterday, the prime minister and the premier reminded citizens that this is an unprecedented historic crisis, both globally and here at home. Mr. Legault also pointed out yesterday that “we are waging the biggest battle of our collective lives,” that we must follow the guidelines and stay home as much as possible. “If we follow these guidelines, we will win this battle.”

It is important to go for walks, but to stay two metres from one another. If you have symptoms, do not go out for walks. If you are returning from travel, you are more likely to be carrying the virus. The best thing you can do is stay home, but if you go out, be extremely vigilant and keep a distance from others.

Volunteering – clarifications
The prevailing guideline is to stay home, except for going out to obtain or provide essential services. Premier Legault specified that this does not refer to social volunteering in order to get together with others, but rather volunteering to provide essential services.

Over 12,000 people have registered on the portal jebenevole.ca, and 9000 matches have already been made.

Travelling between regions
Given that Montréal and the Eastern Townships are the two most affected regions, it is even more important to stay home. People from other regions must avoid travelling to Montréal or the Eastern Townships and vice versa. For the time being, there are no plans to close regions or neighbourhoods, but this could be considered, if necessary.

Vulnerable people
Premier Legault is calling on the population to be vigilant with regard to children and women who are victims of violence and is asking citizens to contact police if they know someone who is a victim of violence.

François Legault thanked truckers who are transporting our food and essential goods.