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May 4, 2021- Canadian and Québec government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the federal and provincial governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccinations in Québec

Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé announced the opening in May of a drive-thru vaccination service at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, in Montréal.

The site will open on May 17. For the time being, appointments will be necessary and it will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. It has not been ruled out that the opening hours will be extended and that people will be able to get vaccinated without an appointment.

Christian Dubé stated that across the province, 75% of the 55 to 59 age group have been vaccinated. Moreover, 37.2% of Quebecers have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

The possibility of receiving a different vaccine for the second dose is still under review. Data still needs to come in on the efficacy of this method. The Comité sur l’immunisation du Québec (CIQ) will announce its opinion on the interchangeability of doses shortly.

Moreover, the first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have arrived in the country and the CIQ is recommending it for Quebecers ages 30 and over. Dr. Arruda said that Quebecers will be able to choose this vaccine as with the AstraZeneca. In the next few days, the CIQ will be issuing its opinion on the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the province.

No decision has been made yet with respect to a vaccine passport. However, the government is working on providing Quebecers with digital proof of vaccination once they have received their second dose.

Loosening of some measures, introduction of others in Québec

The situation is improving overall in Québec and Premier Legault announced new measures.

Starting next Monday (May 10), in Québec City, Lévis, Bellechasse and Montmagny-L’Islet, Secondary I and II students will return to the classroom full time while those in Secondary III, IV and V will return part time. The curfew will be moved from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. next Monday in these four locations and non-essential businesses will be permitted to reopen.

In Outaouais, the situation is improving, but is still very fragile. Mr. Legault announced that, as of Monday, elementary schools will reopen. The RCMs of Vallée de Gatineau and Papineau only have been returned to red alert. As of Monday, the curfew will start at 9:30 p.m. and secondary schools and non-essential businesses will reopen.

In Beauce-Etchemin, Beauce-Sartigan and Robert-Cliche, the only change will be the opening of elementary schools on Monday, May 10.

In the region of Granite, in Estrie, emergency measures will come into effect on Wednesday, May 5, at midnight. Non-essential business will have to close, there will be an 8-p.m. curfew and secondary schools will have to close as well.

In Bas-St-Laurent, the situation continues to be challenging. No changes have been made to the measures currently in place.

Abitibi-Témiscamingue will transition from orange alert to yellow alert next Monday.

Elsewhere in Québec, the situation remains stable. In the next few weeks, Premier Legault hopes that most regions will be able to transition to orange, but he reiterated that this must be done very gradually.

François Legault pointed out that Québec is doing very well, especially when compared with Ontario and Alberta. “We have half as many hospitalizations as Ontario and Alberta, which means we are beginning May in a good position and, once again, I’d like to thank all Quebecers for their efforts.”

State of the pandemic in Canada

Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Howard Njoo of the Public Health Agency of Canada repeated that, to date, more than 1.2 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the country, including more than 24,300 deaths.

Over the course of the last week, 7,900 cases were reported each day. Unfortunately, the number of serious and critical cases remains high. Nearly 4,300 people with COVID-19 were treated in Canadian hospitals each day, including more than 1,450 in intensive care units.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines to including advice on the use of the Janssen vaccine by Johnson & Johnson.

For the time being, and on the basis of current evidence, the NACI is recommending that the Janssen vaccine be offered to people 30 years of age and over, and no longer with any contraindications.

So far, Canada has delivered 16.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the provinces and territories. The provinces and territories have administered over 14 million of these doses. Close to 34% of Canadians have received at least one dose.

This week, and every week in May, Canada will receive 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Already, 1.3 million of the doses received have been sent to the provinces and territories.

With respect to the Moderna vaccine, Canada will have 1 million doses of this vaccine as of tomorrow morning. Almost all of these doses will arrive in the provinces and territories by the end of the week.

In all, more than 3 million vaccine doses will be received this week. “Each day, more and more people are getting vaccinated. Each dose allows us to protect another person. Each dose is step toward ending this pandemic,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Mr. Trudeau strongly encouraged Canadians to go get vaccinated as soon as it is their turn, regardless of the vaccine offered. He repeated that all of the vaccines administered in Canada have been approved by Health Canada, which means that they are effective and have proven to be safe.

“The way to get through this pandemic is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The impacts of COVID-19 are by far more serious than the side effects of the viral vector-based vaccines which, even though they can be serious, they are rare,” said Justin Trudeau.

When asked about a vaccine passport necessary for international travel, the prime minister reiterated that now is not the time for travel. However, he stated that Canada is looking at if vaccination certificates will be useful or necessary for travel once the pandemic is behind us.