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May 7, 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 postponed in the Montréal area

The premier of Québec, François Legault, announced that the planned easing of isolation measures in Montréal for businesses and schools will be postponed from May 18 to 25.

The government, in collaboration with Public Health, feel that the contagion ratio is too high and the health network’s capacity is too limited. Over 1,000 beds are currently available to care for people infected with COVID-19, however, the number of healthcare personnel to treat them could be inadequate.

Additional premiums

There are still 11,600 people missing across the healthcare network. Among those who are currently on duty, half work part time. In residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs), the number of part-time workers has reached 60%.

To encourage people to go to work, Québec is offering new wage premiums of up to $1,000 a month per full-time worker in hospitals and CHSLDs, where people are infected. This represents an increase of 12% to 30%.

The president of the Treasury Board, Christian Dubé, has allocated $70 M a month for this additional premium, earmarked for 100,000 workers.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, bonuses of 4% to 8% have been given to health personnel in zones affected by COVID-19.

An additional premium of $2,000 per person is being offered to people in regions outside Greater Montréal to come work there for one month.

Avoiding bankruptcy

Current economic difficulties are putting some of Québec’s flagship businesses at risk. Premier Legault stated that the government will support them so that they can weather this crisis.

“Investissement Québec is talking with hundreds of businesses. We will do everything to save as many businesses as possible, particularly those of strategic importance,” said Mr. Legault.

Restoring public finances

While health spending is exploding, as stated by the president of the Treasury Board, Premier Legault confirmed that the pandemic will have a long-term impact on public finances.

“It will take years before we can restore a balanced budget. There will be significant deficits that will increase our debt. It will take years to get our financial situation back to where it was in 2019,” Mr. Legault stated.

People under 70 years of age

Premier Legault explained that most COVID-19 fatalities have been among people 70 years of age or over, which explains why Public Health is permitting people under 70 to return to work, if they are in good health.

The statistics presented show that 91% of people who have died were over 70 years of age, while 9% were between the ages of 30 and 69. COVID-19 has not killed anyone under the age of 30.

“This does not mean that the risk is zero. (…) It’s a controlled, reasonable and low risk. (…) Young or old, we must all be prudent and respect social distancing of two metres,” said Mr. Legault.

Caring for grandchildren

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stated that grandparents between the ages of 60 and 69 can look after their grandchildren, while respecting all measures and conditions to protect themselves.

The apparent contradictions in the changing directives can be explained and are normal, he added, since the situation and knowledge are changing every day.

Tests per million inhabitants

Premier Legault was reassuring about the capacity to test COVID-19 cases. “Québec is the place that tests the most people per million inhabitants in the world,” he stated.

Some 37,000 tests per million inhabitants are being conducted in Québec, whereas this number is 25,000 in Ontario, 24,000 in the United States, 21,000 in the United Kingdom and 17,000 in France.

The capacity to screen the population is one of the six key conditions set out by the World Health Organization (WHO) to permit a gradual easing of isolation measures.

 $4 billion for essential workers

The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced a $4-billion agreement with the provinces to improve the wage conditions of essential workers in the health sector.

Premier Legault stated that this sum will be used in particular to pay for certain assistance programs put in place by his government.

Soldiers in Québec

Over 1,350 soldiers should be providing support in 25 CHSLDs, that is, 20 in Québec and 5 in Ontario, as of next week.

Mr. Trudeau thanked these soldiers as well as all those who are working in healthcare.

“You’re a source of motivation for all of us. You’re looking after our parents. You’re caring for our sick. You’re looking after us. You’ve been leading the fight against COVID-19 since the beginning of the crisis and you deserve our recognition. You deserve to be paid properly for the essential work you’re doing,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Supply chains

The prime minister also believes that the pandemic has laid bare weaknesses in Canada’s supply chains with the issues breeders, producers, processers and farmers are having to deal with.

“We’re going to have to take a serious look at this in the years to come (…) so that we can ensure the integrity of our supply chains and logistics chains,” he said.