May 13, 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.
Resumption of individual sports
Québec Premier François Legault announced what he called “good news that will be good for everyone,” with the resumption of individual non-contact sports, such as golf and tennis, starting May 20 everywhere in Québec.
In addition to singles tennis and golf, track and field, hiking, individual water sports like canoeing, kayaking, rowing and scuba diving, triathlon, rock climbing and fishing will be authorized.
However, organized competitions are still prohibited.
“I think this will do everyone good, including me” he said.
Crucial medical advance
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a “crucial advance” in the fight against COVID-19 with Health Canada’s authorization of the first serological tests to identify antibodies to this new disease.
The COVID-19 Immunity Taskforce now has a safe and approved test to detect the presence of antibodies specific to COVID-19 in the blood.
“This is an important step in better understanding the mechanisms of immunization against the virus and how it propagates. It will help us ensure the health and safety of Canadians,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Emergency student benefits
Prime Minister Trudeau invited college and university students to register starting Friday on the Canada Revenue Agency portal to obtain the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) of $1,250 per month for a maximum of four months.
The program is designed to help students who are not able to find a job or can only get reduced work hours to top up their earnings.
The payments will be retroactive to May 1st and will continue until August.
Mr. Trudeau reiterated that this assistance will help students compensate for the fact that there will not be as much work available this summer to help cover their subsistence costs and tuition fees in the fall.
Increasing screening rates
Premier François Legault is dissatisfied with the current volume of screening of the population, which does not meet the conditions for relaxing isolation measures set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“I have to say it: We were doing 6,000 tests a day. We needed to increase to 14,000 tests a day. We’re doing 9,000 a day. I can’t accept this. I’m not happy. We need to be better organized and we need to better inform the population,” said Mr. Legault. He stated that he is “personally” following this file.
Return of health workers
Mr. Legault was pleased to announce that for a third consecutive day staff members in the health network have been gradually returning to work.
“Some 250 workers in the health network returned to work yesterday; that’s good news,” he stated, after weeks of noting serious staff shortages due to the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals and long-term care centres.
Make your own masks
After having recommended wearing homemade masks yesterday when outside the home, Premier Legault invited Quebecers to “make their own masks.”
The premier explained that the most worrisome aspect over the next few weeks will be public transit, particularly the Montréal metro, with more than 500,000 users every day “in normal times.”
“Gradually, in the weeks to come, there will be more people taking the metro and busses in Montréal, and the use of a mask will become more and more important,” said Mr. Legault.
Tens of millions of masks will be required to meet demand. The government is working on this, in collaboration with Québec manufacturers, for both disposable and reusable masks.
“I’m confident. We’ll be able to make masks in Québec,” Mr. Legault stated.
New social norms
The premier said that he trusts Quebecers to respect the Public Health guidelines in order to return to a somewhat more normal life.
“It’s pretty clear that in the next few months and maybe even the next few years, there will be no vaccine. We need to learn how to live with the virus if we want to return as quickly as possible to a life that is somewhat more normal. It’s important to follow the guidelines and this now includes wearing a mask,” said Mr. Legault.
The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, believes that wearing a mask “will become a social norm” as have physical distancing and handwashing.
Unprecedented anticipated debt: $1 trillion
For the first time in Canadian history, the federal debt could reach $1 trillion, an increase of close to $200 billion due to the impact of the pandemic on the economy and the measures to deal with it, while there is no plan to table a budget.
“We know that we’re in an unprecedented situation that is changing very rapidly. A budget is a forecast of what will happen in the next 12 months, but right now it’s very difficult to predict what will happen in the next few weeks,” said Mr. Trudeau.