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May 1, 2020 – Government updates on the COVID-19 pandemic

In the exceptional circumstances of the current health state of emergency, here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, presented the Québec government’s massive screening plan, to coincide with the gradual easing of isolation measures beginning on Monday.

The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, promised financial assistance for seniors.

Massive screening

After administering over 220,000 tests in Québec since the start of the pandemic, the government is launching a massive screening plan among the population starting Monday. The current testing capacity of 6,000 tests a day will increase to 14,000 tests daily by the end of next week.

This new screening strategy is the third initiative, coming on the heels of the screening strategy for people returning from abroad, and then the screening of people in hospitals and those living in residential and long-term care centres.

This new strategy will make it possible to test people in their living environments (schools, factories, construction sites, stores, etc.) in addition to people who are hospitalized, healthcare professionals, staff and residents in CHSLDs, people with COVID-19 symptoms, first responders and people in contact with those infected with the virus.

Some 1,000 tests will be reserved for random screening in hot zones and outbreak zones.

New type of sample collection

To help healthcare personnel and to speed up sample collection, sputum collection may soon be introduced in screening clinics.

With this method of collection, many more people can be tested, since it is faster than swab collection performed by a nurse.

With massive screening, people will be able to call directly to have a test or be evaluated in one of the new designated screening centres or designated evaluation centres.

An average of 85 deaths a day

Over the last 10 days, Québec has maintained an average of 85 coronavirus-related deaths. “It’s not decreasing, but it’s not increasing either,” said Dr. Arruda. He stressed that this statistic is the most reliable. It is adjusted to the actual number of cases rather than the daily report announced and takes into account the number of deaths that have occurred over several days.

250,000 people infected

Even though the number of officially confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Québec is 28,648 to date, the national director of Public Health estimates that the actual number is probably over 250,000.

Considering that about 3% of the population is currently infected, the prevalence of the disease is about a quarter of a million people.

Easing of isolation measures… postponed

Doubts persist about the extent to which the spread of the pandemic is under control in anticipation of the easing of isolation measures in Québec, particularly in Montréal.

“We will continue to analyze several variables, including the six criteria put forward by the World Health Organization (WHO). If the number of hospitalizations and patients in intensive care starts to rise and emergency rooms become overwhelmed, we might have to pull back,” Dr. Arruda said.

Personal protective equipment

The Canadian prime minister stressed that the current priority is to provide personal protective equipment to healthcare staff.

Once the pandemic is over, he admitted that we will have to take a good look at how and to what extent we need to be prepared, in the future, in the event of a new health crisis like COVID-19.

Assault rifles banned

Prime Minister Trudeau announced a regulatory amendment banning the use, transportation, purchase, possession and import of military assault rifles in Canada.