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May 5, 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.

Easing of isolation measures

Premier Legault finds it inhumane that seniors have not been able to see their loved ones for two months. “We can’t protect physical health at the expense of mental health,” he said.

Certain conditions will apply starting May 11 to allow an easing of isolation measures in seniors’ residences. For instance, the residence cannot have anyone infected with COVID-19. Social distancing and sanitary measures will be upheld.

Essential businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, will also have to plan opening hours that can accommodate people 70 years of age and over.

 No family barbecues

The director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stated that gatherings with family or friends still have to wait.

Gatherings must be avoided, he reiterated. There is a difference between a gathering outdoors and a gathering around the table.

“It will come, but we need time to measure the effects of loosening isolation measures, and there are some who feel that we are already going too fast.”

 Significant informal caregivers

Significant informal caregivers will now be able to see their loved ones. Eligible caregivers will be those who see their loved ones regularly to feed them, help with personal grooming, accompany them, etc.

The minister responsible for Seniors and Informal Caregivers, Marguerite Blais, explained that the government has shifted its paradigm on this issue. Administrators of residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) who decide to refuse access to an informal caregiver will have to justify why to the Ministère.

For their part, caregivers will have to follow sanitary rules and infection prevention protocols, and facilitate the work of staff.

Access to palliative care

For the same compassionate reasons and out of respect for human dignity, the ban has been lifted on visits with people receiving palliative care in CHSLDs.

“One of the saddest consequences of the pandemic has been people passing away without seeing their family one last time, and loved ones who cannot say goodbye to someone dear to them at the end of life. (…) You’ll be able to say goodbye to your parents, and parents will be able to say goodbye to their children or their spouse,” said the minister.

 Call for help

Premier Legault reiterated his call for people to come work full time in seniors’ residences.

“We need you more than ever,” said Mr. Legault.

Some 11,200 people in the health network were absent from work yesterday.

“The pressure on people who are working right now is enormous. (…) Our main problem continues to be staff shortages,” he said.

New wage bonuses will be announced tomorrow. 

Agri-food sector

Prime Minister Trudeau announced $252 M in assistance for several areas in the agri-food sector.

AgriRecovery is a new initiative with a $125-M budget to enable producers to adapt to the new market realities caused by the pandemic, in particular with the closure of hotels and restaurants.

Mr. Trudeau explained that it is important to find new outlets for their products, such as steak and bacon, because producers are having to keep their animals longer, which is increasing their costs.

Processing plants will share $77 M to provide personal protective equipment to workers and to adapt their facilities to new sanitary rules.

To prevent producers from having to dump their production due to a lack of market outlets, the federal government has created a $50-M fund to purchase surplus production to redistribute to communities in need.

The prime minister stated that this will support potato and poultry producers, in particular.

 Dairy production

With not enough outlets for their products, dairy producers have also been forced to dump a portion of their production, which has prompted the federal government to offer them a $200-M increase in their line of credit.

This proposal depends on parliamentary approval.

 In solution mode

François Legault is satisfied with the discipline, ingenuity and resourcefulness of the merchants who resumed their activities yesterday in terms of respecting two-metre distancing.

In preparation for the reopening of schools and daycares, Mr. Legault called for adaptability and flexibility so that things go as smoothly. “We need to be in solution mode, not problem-seeking mode,” he said.

 Foreign seasonal workers

Regarding the anticipated shortage of farm workers this spring, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that 90% of the foreign nationals usually hired have already arrived in Canada.

The prime minister stated that the need for foreign labour will be greater in several months, at harvest time.