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May 12, 2020 – Federal and provincial 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.

Mask-wearing recommended

The premier of Québec, François Legault, recommended that Quebecers wear a mask when they leave home.

“The virus will be with us for some time to come. We’ll have to get used to it and learn how to live with it, as others have done around the world,” said Mr. Legault.

He warned that, “our way of life will change,” with no vaccine in sight for several months. He encouraged people to follow the health directives in order to stop the propagation of the virus.

Wearing a mask is not mandatory but recommended, as its efficiency has yet to be proven. The Public Health Act could, however, be invoked to impose it if necessary.

Financial assistance for seniors

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced financial assistance for seniors with a $300 increase to Old Age Security benefits and an additional $200 for those receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

This is a one-time payment that will be made in the coming weeks.

Some 6.7 million people are receiving Old Age Security benefits and 2.2 million the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The cost of this aid package is estimated at $2.5 billion.

An additional investment of $20 M in community projects that fall under the New Horizons for Seniors Program was also added.

Expected deficit of $15 billion

Mr. Legault confirmed that the recent unemployment rate of 17% in Québec shows the heavy impact of the pandemic on the economy and public finance.

Some $3 billion was added in health spending and $2 billion in economic measures due to the crisis. With the economic slowdown, the delay of $15 billion in cash flow and $5 billion in additional spending related to the pandemic, Mr. Legault announced an expected deficit of $12 billion to $15 billion this year.

Go get tested

The premier of Québec referred to the paradox of increased testing capacity but not enough people taking the test.

“Go get tested,” he said, calling on all those in the contagion “hot zones,” such as Montréal and Laval.

Mr. Legault explained that the capacity is now 17,000 tests a day, but people have to go get tested, even more so if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Too early to tell

While more and more higher education institutions are planning distance semesters this fall and growing numbers of people are wondering if they should renew their leases for their studies, Premier Legault said that it is still too early to answer these questions.

The premier hopes that teaching can be done in the classroom this fall.

“We will base our decision on science,” he said.

Bring what you need with you to the cottage

Despite the easing of isolation measures in the regions and the upcoming long weekend, the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, called on people to limit their travel to a minimum and to forego their cottages for the time being.

He understands that if people must go, they should bring everything they need with them in order to limit the risks of spreading the virus in the regions.

“Load up your car. Go to the cottage. Get your work done. Load up the car again and come back,” he said.

Reform of seniors’ residences

Prime Minister Trudeau promised federal assistance to help provinces find sustainable solutions.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, we have seen heartbreaking scenes in the residential and long-term care centres for seniors across the country,” he stated.

“These centres are facing major challenges and, over the course of the next few months, the federal government will be there to help the provinces overcome them,” said Mr. Trudeau.