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March 30, 2020 – New government measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

In these 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 epidemic.

Two important announcements were made today: the subsidy covering 75% of staff salaries has been extended to large companies and most essential businesses in Québec will be closed on Sundays for the entire month of April.

The number of cases of people infected with COVID-19 has risen sharply in Québec, but there is good news: the rate of hospitalization and people treated in intensive care is below that forecasted by health authorities. In addition, the armed forces are ready to be deployed if necessary. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier of Québec François Legault, both once again reminded the public of the importance of following the preventive guidelines, namely staying home, practising social distancing during walks or essential outings, and washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap as soon as you return home.

Legault encourages people experiencing stress, anxiety or depression to seek medical help, because mental health is just as important as physical health.

Payroll subsidy for businesses

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau has boosted the subsidy for businesses covering up to 75% of employee salaries by extending it to all businesses, regardless of the number of employees. This was first announced for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which excluded large employers.

These measures are intended to help people keep their jobs and businesses keep their staff. The subsidy is also extended to charitable and non-profit organizations. It is retroactive to March 15.

Businesses whose revenues have decreased by at least 30% due to COVID-19 will be eligible. The grant applies to the first $58,700 of salary and to a maximum of $847 per week.

Grocery stores closed on Sundays in April

Premier of Québec François Legault ordered the closing of grocery stores on Sundays for the entire month of April, with the exception of convenience stores, service stations and restaurants for take-out orders.

This will give those who work 7 days a week time to rest.

Seniors’ residences

Mr. Legault is adding a budget of $133 million for seniors’ residences and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) to better protect residents and the staff who work there.

These additional measures are warranted because the elderly are the most vulnerable and most likely to develop complications if they are infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Protective gear

Premier Legault said that in the short term, there is a sufficient supply of protective equipment, and supplies are being received daily. It is important that this equipment, namely masks, gloves and protective gowns, is only used when necessary. Discussions are underway with Québec companies for the manufacturing of protective equipment. Steps are also underway to determine whether the N95 masks can be reused once disinfected.

Supplying health protection equipment is an issue worldwide.

Public sector negotiations

The Québec government is taking the opportunity during the negotiations underway with public sector personnel, including healthcare workers, to improve compensation for beneficiary attendants, particularly in the context of the federal emergency response benefit of $2,000 per month allocated to anyone meeting the criteria. This amount is higher than the current earnings of these workers.

“We have to improve their conditions, as we have been saying for several months,” Mr. Legault said. He also promised that those working as attendants would be compensated for the difference between their salary and the $2,000 in emergency funds.

 Postponed elective surgeries

Along with Premier Legault, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, said that the elective surgeries that were postponed because of the global COVID-19 pandemic were selected by scientific committees, based on solid clinical information.

She explains that it is a temporary load-shedding measure to ensure the health network’s ability to cope with the pandemic and protect healthcare workers in anticipation of peak contagion and care.

 Social workers

Today’s acknowledgements from the Québec government went out to social workers.