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May 20, 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.

Gatherings of 10 people permitted

With the green light from Public Health, deputy premier of Québec, Geneviève Guilbault, has authorized, starting Friday, outdoor gatherings on private property of 10 people from three different family bubbles.

She called on people’s good judgment to avoid ending up indoors or traveling to other regions to see friends or family.  “We’re asking you to hold your gatherings outdoors (…). For the time being, we’re conducting the test outdoors,” she said.

“We feel that if we don’t open this relief valve, there will be some serious negative consequences. We must maintain mental health and avoid clandestine meetings,” said the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda.

Use of homemade masks recommended in Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now wearing a mask when it is not possible to maintain two metres’ distance from others and is asking Canadians to take all appropriate measures to protect themselves.

Starting today, Health Canada is recommending the use of masks as an additional protective measure when physical distancing is not possible.

Mr. Trudeau reiterated that everyone must follow Public Health’s recommendations of physical distancing, limiting themselves to essential outings, handwashing and wearing masks.

Dentists, beauty and body care

With Public Health’s approval, Deputy Premier Guilbault announced the reopening of dentists’ offices as well as beauty and body care establishments as of June 1 across Québec, with the exception of Greater Montreal and the regional county municipality (RCM) of Joliette, for which no date was given.

“The situation in Montréal continues to be fragile,” said Dr. Arruda.

Health requirements have been imposed by the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).

The national director of Public Health stated that the easing of isolation measures must be done while rigorously respecting the measures of physical distancing, handwashing and the use of masks.

Loans for large companies

Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada’s largest companies can now receive loans under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF).

These companies must generate over $300 M in revenue and must need a loan of at least $60 M. A portion of the loan (80%) will be considered non-guaranteed with an interest rate of 5% for the first year and 8% for the second. The residual 20% will be a secured claim.

Assistance for commercial rents

Mr. Trudeau is asking the commercial building owners to support the rapid and solid recovery of the economy, when the time comes, by participating in the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program for small businesses. Registration begins on Monday, May 25.

The program offers owners forgivable loans to reduce rent by 75% for small business tenants in their building who have lost most of their revenue so that they can reopen once it is permitted.

The federal government will assume 50% of the rent while the owner and tenant must each assume 25%. However, owners must submit the application.

Distribution of masks in cities

While some cities have started distributing masks to their citizens, particularly to seniors, Deputy Premier Guilbault said that the government is studying how to intervene to help those who do not have the means to procure masks.

She stated that the Québec government has already distributed one million masks to the cities of Montréal and Laval.

Summer vacation for nurses

Deputy Premier Guilbault sought to reassure nurses that the government will allow them to take two weeks vacation this summer. Ms Guilbault said that this is a “hard-earned” rest nurses really need take, despite the pandemic.

She said that vacations will be granted provided that the hospital network can “maintain service levels.”

G7 meeting in person

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds “interesting” the suggestion by US President Donald Trump, host of the next Group of 7 (G7) meeting, scheduled for June at Camp David, to hold the meeting “in person” despite the pandemic.

“We must stress the importance of the G7, the importance of these meetings to counter the crisis and restore the global economy. Therefore, it’s important that we meet; we already had one virtual meeting a few weeks ago, and it’s important that we have another, one way or another, in June,” said Mr. Trudeau.

The G7 is composed of the countries considered to be the world’s leading powers, namely, Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.