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May 4, 2020 – 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.

The premier of Québec, François Legault, announced that the reopening of non-essential businesses in Montréal will be postponed from May 11 to 18, given the narrow margin of manoeuvre in Montréal hospitals.

The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, will soon be announcing an economic aid package for certain sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic, including the aviation, tourism and energy industries.

Reopening of businesses delayed in Montréal

Mr. Legault explained that the reopening of certain businesses in a move toward a gradual return to normal life will be postponed in Montréal, given that its hospital network currently has very little room to manoeuvre.

While retailers everywhere else in the province started reopening today, the Montréal metropolitan area has had to delay its reopening by a week, that is, to May 18.

 Help still needed

While the situation of medical staff and patient attendants is now under control across the hospital network and in seniors’ homes, Premier Legault once again called for more volunteers.

After eight weeks of service during the pandemic, staff members are tired and need a break.

Mr. Legault asked people who can help, regardless of their skills, to sign up on the Je contribue website.

 Return to school

Mr. Legault called on people’s patience and teachers’ resourcefulness when elementary schools reopen next week across Québec, with the exception of the Montréal metropolitan area.

“There is no instruction manual on how to reopen schools during a pandemic. Overall, I think it should go well,” he said.

Mr. Legault reiterated that he would not be reopening the schools if he himself were not at ease sending his own children back into the classroom.

He added that this will happen “on a case-by-case basis” and that parents must not be feel badly about their choice given that everyone has different health issues.

When questioned about the fact that the English-speaking school boards want to decide for themselves whether or not to open their schools, Mr. Legault was unequivocal: “They will reopen.”

Regions and the elderly

The director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stated that it is normal that the lifting of roadblocks will lead to more travel between the regions and that there will be “a strong pull towards cottages.”

“There’s a sense of freedom that comes with spring and the easing of isolation measures,” he stated.

Given the concerns of the mayors of certain cities and towns with the arrival of people from Montréal, Dr. Arruda said that he is confident that the population will respect the distancing rules. He also promised that the easing of isolation rules for the elderly will come soon.

Assistance for industries

The prime minister of Canada promised assistance for certain industries that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, especially the aeronautics industry.

“We had an extremely strong and competitive airline industry before this pandemic and we will have one after this pandemic,” stated Mr. Trudeau.

Without unveiling any details, he promised specific aid for the various industries affected, particularly the energy, transportation and hotel sectors.

“We will be making announcements in the coming weeks.”

 Later reopening for restaurants

François Legault stated that, unfortunately, restaurants and performance venues will have to suffer patiently before there is any question of resuming their activities.

“I know it’s hard, but we will help them,” he said.

 Emergency Wage Subsidy

Prime Minister Trudeau said that there will be discussions in the weeks ahead on extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy beyond June.

This program pays 75% of wages up to a maximum of $847 per week to employers who maintain employment ties with their staff during the pandemic. Retroactive to March 15, it is currently in place until June.

 Global effort: $850-M contribution

Mr. Trudeau announced an $850-M contribution to the global fight against COVID-19.

Canada is working with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which are promoting information-sharing between hospitals as well as an international effort to raise over US$8 billion to help researchers fight COVID-19 around the world.

“This is what citizens and the countries of the world want,” Mr. Trudeau said.