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May 8, 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.

Massive screening in Montréal

A massive screening blitz has been launched in Montréal, particularly in several sectors where there is sustained community transmission, in order to “flatten the curve (of the spread of COVID-19), as in March, in the greater Montréal area,” stated the director of Montréal’s public health department, Dr. Mylène Drouin.

Through massive screening, 100,000 tests a week will be conducted in Québec. Testing will be concentrated in the Montréal neighbourhoods where there has been a significant increase in the number of cases. Dr. Drouin reiterated that Montréal is the epicentre of the pandemic in Canada and in Québec.

Wearing face coverings in public places

Face coverings are now recommended in any public space in Montréal where it is impossible to respect physical distancing of two metres, particularly on public transit.

Dr. Arruda reiterated that wearing a face covering is not a panacea and does not replace but, rather, complements physical distancing and hand-washing directives and breathing etiquette.

Return to normal life

The director of Public Health asked the population to remain disciplined with respect to the health directives. “Easing isolation measures does not mean slackening,” he stated.

He understands that people are impatient and want to return to normal life. Dr. Arruda pleaded that it is essential to continue to follow isolation and physical distancing measures, otherwise there is the risk, in the Montréal area, that the number of cases will increase and overwhelm the healthcare system.

“Stopping everything is easy. Restarting, that’s a major challenge,” he said à propos of gradually resuming economic activities without triggering a second wave.

Emergency Wage Subsidy extended

The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which two million people are receiving.

“The subsidy will be extended beyond June,” he said.

Mr. Trudeau encouraged businesses to rehire their employees with this subsidy in order to be ready to help restart the economy when conditions permit.

The CEWS enables businesses that have lost 15% to 30% of their sales due to the pandemic to receive a subsidy to cover 75% of their employees’ wages, up to a maximum of $847 per employee. The subsidy is retroactive to March 15 and was originally valid for 12 weeks.

Job security

With the gradual easing of isolation measures and the reopening of elementary schools and daycares, Prime Minister Trudeau warned that there is an established principle in Canada that “no one should work in dangerous conditions” and stated that, “No one should be required to work in conditions that threaten their safety. This applies in the context of the pandemic.”

Assistance for arts, culture and sports

The Prime Minister announced $500 M in aid for the arts, culture and sports.

This money will cover the wages of artists, athletes and managers as well as contribute to businesses and various organizations.

Some $198.3 M will be earmarked for arts and culture, $72 M for sports, $53 M for heritage, $88.8 M for media and $27 M for the Canadian audiovisual sector.

New Industry Strategy Council

To plan the reopening of the economy and gradually emerge from the crisis, Justin Trudeau has set up the Industry Strategy Council in order to better understand the consequences of the pandemic for the economy.

It will be chaired by the former president and CEO of Mouvement Desjardins, Monique Leroux, and led by the minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Navdeep Bains.

Two new sectoral tables have also been created on the retail and transportation industries.

Additional financial support for seniors

In terms of the financial challenges faced by seniors, Mr. Trudeau stated that he plans to make announcements in the next few days “to help the most vulnerable seniors.”

The prime minister reiterated that seniors are also eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit of $2,000 a month.