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May 18, 2020 – Provincial government update 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 Québec government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses to reopen on May 25
Québec Premier François Legault announced the reopening in Greater Montréal of stores with an outside entrance, starting May 25.

“I’m very pleased to announce that we have the green light from Public Health to reopen stores in Greater Montréal,” said Mr. Legault.

This reopening is possible thanks to favourable and stable trends in reducing the number of hospitalizations, cases and deaths related to COVID-19. The number of screening tests is now also adequate under the rules for relaxing isolation measures issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). There has also been an increase in staff returning to work in the health network.

Daycares to reopen on June 1
The government leader called for indulgence, tolerance and understanding from parents and business owners for any employees who do not obtain a daycare space despite the reopening of daycares on June 1.

“There will be workers who will not have spaces for their children. I’m asking employers to be understanding,” stated Mr. Legault.

Daycares will reopen with fewer spaces to allow for physical distancing of two metres.

A medication developed in Québec?
As he did in March, Premier Legault asked people who have COVID-19 to participate in a clinical study led by the director of the Research Centre of the Montreal Heart Institute, Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, to develop what could be the first medication for this virus.

The study, named COLCORONA, assesses the effects of colchicine, a very powerful anti-inflammatory used in particular to treat gout and pericarditis, to reduce the risk of pulmonary complications associated with COVID-19.

The premier stated that it would be extraordinary and a tremendous source of pride if the first medication to treat this virus were discovered in Québec. People with COVID-19 who wish to participate in the study must sign up on the website colcorona.net to receive the medication and the protocols for follow-up at home.

Non-urgent surgeries to resume
After having been put on hold to increase hospital capacity to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, non-urgent surgeries will gradually resume across Québec, announced the minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann.

Some 68,000 surgeries were postponed since the onset of the pandemic, while semi-urgent and urgent surgeries were not interrupted.

There will be a near total resumption in eight cold regions (with no COVID-19 cases) in Québec, nearly 75% resumption in the regions of Outaouais, the Capitale-Nationale and Mauricie, and 40% in Greater Montréal where the situation “in the hospitals continues to be quite difficult,” said Ms McCann.

All schools to reopen in September?
Aware of the risks and difficulties for youth who need to socialize and see each other, Premier Legault wants “to do everything to ensure that schools are open in September.”

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stated that discussions are underway with the Ministère de l’Éducation, because there are impacts in the current context for youth who “really need to be able to socialize with each other.”

Guide for gatherings
Dr. Horacio Arruda announced that a guide will soon be available to explain what types of gatherings will be permitted in the coming weeks.

There will be models of gatherings, for examples, between “family pods” or with one friend.

“It’s very unfortunate, but we cannot return to normal,” said the national director of Public Health. “Just because we feel fine and the weather is beautiful doesn’t mean we can’t transmit the virus,” he said.

Reopening timeline
Premier Legault stated that there will be a working meeting tonight to come up with a timeline for resuming group sports, reopening restaurants, holding public gatherings, festivals or religious events, and tourism. It will be unveiled shortly.

Tracking app
The premier plans to permit the use of a smart phone tracking application so that interventions can be with people who have been in contact with others infected with COVID-19.

Mr. Legault hopes to collaborate on this with the other provinces, particularly Ontario, and would prefer the use of a Québec application.

E-mail against the code of silence
The new e-mail to encourage workers in the health network to break the code of silence and denounce problematic situations, introduced on the weekend by Minister of Health and Social Services Danielle McCann, has led to 836 reports.

These reports mostly pertain to wage premiums, working conditions, personal protective equipment, staff shortages, transfers of healthcare personnel from warm zones to cold zones and employee distress.

The minister promised prompt follow-up and resolutions.

Financial assistance for municipalities
Premier Legault is in favour of federal government financial support for cities in difficulty as a result of the pandemic, in particular the major impact due to the drop in public transit use.

“I would like this to be coordinated between the federal government and the Québec government,” he said.