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March 9, 2021 – 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.

Better than five of the seven wealthiest countries

Thursday will mark the first anniversary of the pandemic, and Québec Premier François Legault drew an overall positive portrait of the fight against COVID-19 waged by his government and all Quebecers, with Québec having done better than five of the seven wealthiest countries in the world, according to the statistics.

While he concedes that his government could have done better, he sought to put Québec’s results in the fight against the pandemic in a global context.

“Five of the seven wealthiest countries in the world, namely, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy, have had more deaths than Québec, per capita. Two countries had fewer deaths, including Germany for the first wave, but not the second. There were fewer deaths in Ontario, but expert analysis links the more critical situation in Québec to the spring break at the beginning of March. Ontario’s was scheduled two weeks later and was cancelled, said the premier.

Mr. Legault drew a comparison with the neighbouring State of Massachusetts, one of the wealthiest regions in the world with one of the best healthcare systems on the planet. In this State of 4.6 million people, the death toll was 16,435, while in Québec, with a population of 8.5 million people, there were 10,493 deaths.

“What we have in common with Massachusetts is a spring break that fell in the same period before the first wave of the pandemic,” said Premier Legault.

Mr. Legault also noted that the situation improved by 90% in the residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) between the first and second wave.

A committed drive to vaccinate people 65 years of age and over

Québec Premier François Legault noted that the government is driven to vaccinate Quebecers 65 years of age and over, a move that will create a completely different situation in the fight against the pandemic.

Mr. Legault reiterated that people 65 years of age and over represent 95% of deaths and 80% of hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

“We’re talking weeks and it will come,” said Mr. Legault. Meanwhile, the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, believes that at the current rate of vaccination, this goal will be attained around mid-May.

Home vaccinations

Home vaccinations will also begin once doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been received, which will help facilitate the protection of people who are unable to get to a mass vaccination centre.

Minister Dubé stated that the strategy in terms of the arsenal of vaccines is to use those manufactured by Pfizer for the mass vaccination clinics, the Moderna vaccine in the pharmacies (as of March 15) and the AstraZeneca vaccine for home vaccinations.

The minister is also very pleased to see that more than 70% of healthcare workers are now willing to be vaccinated, compared with 40% at the beginning of the campaign.

Mass vaccination accelerating across Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed mass vaccination is accelerating across the country, with 8 million doses to be administered by the end of March.

It will be one year Thursday that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of global pandemic. Prime Minister Trudeau was reassuring, pointing to the federal government’s emergency support to the entire population and to corporations.

“Eight out of every 10 dollars spent by the governments in Canada in relation to the pandemic were spent by the federal government,” said Mr. Trudeau.

The prime minister stated “we will ultimately overcome COVID-19.” This kind of crisis occurs once every century, he said. What seemed normal before the pandemic has become less and less so over the weeks and months.

He also paid tribute to the 2.5 million people who have died of COVID-19 around the world, including 22,295 in Canada.

Sports: an announcement coming Friday

Premier Legault reiterated that he believes that sports relieves stress and is much better at doing that than any medication. He stated that he is not indifferent to this, in reference of the demonstration by youth and parents in front of Parliament demanding the resumption of sports.

“We don’t listen to science only when it suits us,” said Mr. Legault. At present, the health experts think that now is not the time to permit a resumption of sports due to the much more contagious variants and the need to evaluate the impact of spring break on the spread of the virus.

He called on people to show responsibility and solidarity with our seniors, who built Québec and are at greater risk.

Minister Isabelle Charest will announce on Friday a plan to gradually resume sports, alongside Public Health.

Children must go to school

Premier Legault took a more serious tone with respect to parents who decided this week to keep their children home to protest the requirement to wear a mask in elementary schools.

“I’m so sad to see that children are being deprived of going to school. I’ve done everything since the beginning of the pandemic to keep the schools open as much as possible. It doesn’t make sense that parents are keeping their children at home because they’re being asked to wear a mask,” said Mr. Legault.

The premier said children are perfectly capable of adapting to the situation and that Public Health considers the new variants to be more contagious.

Measures to be eased soon

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, alluded to a possible easing of lockdown and curfew rules and a return to some degree of social life as the vaccination campaign picks up steam.

He does not think that people will require a vaccination passport to access public spaces with the vaccination campaign growing in scope. Moreover, students will soon be able to return to the classroom full time, rather than alternating between home and school, in the orange zones.

Premier Legault stated that if the situation continues to improve, the curfew could be delayed by one hour, to 9 p.m. He pointed out that with the time change next weekend, nightfall will also be one hour later.

No change at the land border

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that from the outset of the pandemic the Government of Canada imposed the strictest rules in the world regarding border crossings, and does not plan to impose a 72-hour quarantine for people crossing Canada’s land borders, which currently applies to travellers arriving by air.

“It’s important to stress that the measures put in place must be appropriate and applicable,” he said.