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November 17, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

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

Alarming spread of the pandemic in Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, are worried about the accelerated growth of the pandemic that is holding steady in the country, causing many to fear that the numbers will reach 10,000 cases a day in the next two weeks. This situation would put hospital systems at risk in several regions.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 11,000 people have died from COVID-19, over 302,000 have been infected and 240,000 have recovered. The number of daily cases is exceeding 4,800 and some 1,675 are being hospitalized, of which 330 require intensive care.

“These developments since the end of last week are alarming. […] The disease is spreading among the most vulnerable and people over 80 are the most affected,” said Dr. Tam.

Prime Minister Trudeau is calling on people to go out only when absolutely necessary, to respect public health guidelines and to apply the health measures.

“10,000 cases a day is not taking us in the right direction. We must do our part now” to reverse the trend, said Mr. Trudeau .

The case of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean

In Québec, Premier François Legault observed that the situation remains under control, which is encouraging in the context, except in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean where the rate of contagion has risen sharply.

However, in terms of all the other indicators of the pandemic in Québec, that is, the number of people infected, hospitalizations, intensive care cases and deaths, “the situation remains under control,” said Québec’s premier.

Snowbirds stay home

The prime minister reminded snowbirds, that the government is recommending not travelling abroad during the pandemic.

“The pandemic continues to pose major challenges around the world, including the southern United States. People are safer if they stay home in Canada,” he said.

The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel, until November 21.

“If people decide to go anyway, it’s their choice. They must make sure to have adequate health insurance and travel insurance, and that they will have access to proper care where they are going. That’s why, as a government, we are recommending that people not travel abroad during this pandemic,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Extended Christmas vacation

Premier Legault confirmed that in a few days he will announce the measures that will govern gatherings during the holiday season.

The government as well as Québec’s public health department will evaluate various scenarios to enable healthy family gatherings. Schools could remain closed for an additional two weeks, after the regular holiday break, in order to create “a kind of quarantine and to protect children before they go back to school,” said Mr. Legault.

The premier promised that the details would be released before November 25.

Logistics for the distribution of the vaccine

Prime Minister Trudeau indicated that the government is already taking steps to organize the distribution of the future vaccines that will be shipped to Canada over the winter and in early spring. The vast majority of Canadians could therefore be vaccinated by the end of next year.

Mr. Trudeau explained that major organization on a very large scale is needed and that the Canadian Armed Forces may take part in the vast vaccination campaign that is being prepared.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said that we could start to receive the vaccines as soon as January or February.

In total, Canada has reserved as many as 414 million doses of the different potential vaccines, including 76 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech and 56 million doses from Moderna.

Health measures will not be lifted

The director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, warned that despite a vaccine this winter or in the spring, it is almost certain that the guidelines of wearing a mask, physical distancing and handwashing will be maintained for as long as it takes to ensure that the population is well protected, since the virus will continue to be present for a certain period of time despite the vaccine.

According to Dr. Arruda, the health guidelines could be maintained for as long as 12 to 18 months after the vaccination of the population.