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May 25, 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.

Shopping centres to reopen outside Greater Montréal

As part of the gradual easing of isolation measures orchestrated by the Québec government, in agreement with Public Health, Premier François Legault announced the reopening of shopping centres outside Greater Montréal starting Monday, June 1st.

Mr. Legault called on Quebecers to be patient for the reopening of campgrounds, places of worship, bars, restaurants and hotels, and the return of professional sports.

This reopening will be gradual so that the still fragile hospital network is not overwhelmed by patients infected with COVID-19.

Call to youth

With gatherings of a maximum of 10 people from three family bubbles now permitted, Premier Legault asked two popular young artists, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse and Pier-Luc Funk, to drive home the message among youth of the importance of following health guidelines.

Both artists immediately agreed that isolation is particularly difficult as is social distancing.

“We mustn’t resist or fight it,” said the young actress. She explained that youth should appreciate the fact that activities are resuming and respect physical distancing and “wearing a mask” when necessary.

Both actors will host an event on Télé-Québec on June 19 to support students in light of the cancellation of their graduation balls this year.

Plan for a 10-day sick leave for all Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes to reach an agreement with the provinces to offer 10 days of paid sick leave, starting in October, to all workers across the country.

Mr. Trudeau wants to prevent people from having to choose between paying for rent or groceries and going to work even if they have symptoms related to the flu, a cold or ones that seem like COVID-19 this fall, which is when medical scientists are predicting a second wave of the coronavirus.

Since this is a shared jurisdiction, an agreement must be reached between the federal and provincial governments for this program to be offered. Mr. Trudeau said that governments will have to assume a large part of the cost since “businesses don’t have a lot of financial flexibility” at the moment.

Accelerated training for patient attendants

Québec’s ministries of Health and Social Services and of Education are currently organizing a new three-month program to train people to become patient attendants.

Premier Legault indicated that the training should begin in mid-June and will partially solve the problem of staff shortages in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs).

Currently, over 10,000 volunteers and 1,000 soldiers, without proper training, are lending their support in CHSLDs.

Air conditioning in CHSLDs

One of the earliest heat waves in Québec history, expected this week, is presenting yet another health challenge for CHSLDs, which have very limited air conditioning. Mr. Legault reiterated that the government injected $30 M last year to create cool zones in these centres. However, the vast majority (97%) of CHSLDs can no longer provide these zones.

The minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, said that a plan slated for June will be introduced ahead of time so that residents’ rooms are air conditioned. She explained that some buildings are so dilapidated that the electrical installations are inadequate for the use of air-conditioners. Outdoor generators will be added.

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stressed that the network is in the process of putting in place measures to ensure that residents do not suffer from the heat.

Asylum seekers

In order to show real recognition of the contribution of asylum seekers who have volunteered to work in CHSLDs during the pandemic, Premier Legault mandated the minister of Immigration, Francization and Integration, Simon Jolin-Barrette, to see if it is possible to turn asylum applications into immigration applications.

Mr. Legault explained that applications for asylum require individuals to prove that their physical safety is in jeopardy in their country, which does not apply to immigration applications.

20,000 screening tests a day

Mr. Legault is very pleased that the objective of 14,000 screening tests a day has been surpassed in Québec since last week. He would now like to see an increase to 20,000 tests a day.

He reiterated that Québec is one of the places in the world with the highest rate of testing per one million people.

$3 billion in construction projects for public transit

Premier Legault reassured construction workers that there will be no shortage of work in the years ahead despite the anticipated economic slowdown, since construction projects for major public transit infrastructure will be sped up.

Mr. Legault reiterated his election promises and said that his government is prioritizing these projects. Work is already underway for the construction of the REM (Réseau express métropolitain), autonomous shuttles and the extension of the metro’s blue line.

The introduction of a tramway linking Montréal’s east end to downtown, a tramway or REM extension from east to west in Laval and two tramway projects on the South Shore are currently being studied.