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November 19, 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.

Gatherings permitted for Christmas

The provincial government has made its decision: families and friends will be able to gather for four days over Christmas, from December 24 to 27, for a maximum of 10 people, regardless of family bubbles.

To make these gatherings possible, the government is asking people and businesses for their cooperation, as of December 17, in encouraging isolation by allowing telework, or shutting down their activities. This period of restricted activities will be prolonged as much as possible until January 11.

Mr. Legault explained that these periods before and after Christmas will create a form of isolation that will help to limit contagion during gatherings from December 24 to 27 and the resumption of activities on January 11.

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, called on Quebecers to nevertheless refrain from holding too many gatherings, and instead to minimize them and, above all, to respect the health guidelines. Measures will also be announced to ensure that these gatherings are as safe as possible in the context of the pandemic.

If people have COVID-19 symptoms, they must not join in these Holiday gatherings. The government is also calling on the population to respect those who decide to not participate in get-togethers out of concern for their health, particularly seniors.

“This is the moral contract that I am proposing to Quebecers for the Holiday period,” said Mr. Legault, specifying that this will be possible as long as the situation does not deteriorate between now and December 17.

No gatherings will be permitted before or after these dates, including for New Year’s celebrations. And office parties will be prohibited.

Distance teaching

As of December 17, teachers will be invited to hold classes remotely. Elementary schools will reopen as of January 5, while high schools will reopen as of January 11.

This phased-in resumption of school should allow for children and teaching staff who have been infected with COVID-19 to develop symptoms before the return to the classroom.

These schedule changes do not affect children in special education classes.

Shop early for the Holidays

In terms of Holiday shopping, Dr. Horacio Arruda recommended shopping early in stores or shopping online.

He reiterated that contagion in stores is limited, if the health rules are closely followed by merchants and clients.

Restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theatres to remain closed

Premier Legault announced that the closure of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theatres and performance halls will be extended until January 11. Financial support measures will also be extended to this date.

“There are still too many cases of COVID-19 and too much pressure on the health network,” to reopen them, said Mr. Legault. He repeated that these measures are in place almost everywhere in the world due to the risks of contagion.

An additional $157 million for food self-sufficiency

The pandemic has revealed issues around food self-sufficiency, and Québec’s minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, André Lamontagne, announced $157 million in investments to improve the productivity of companies in Québec’s bio-food sector, by increasing their numbers and creating 3,800 additional jobs.

“By encouraging Québec consumers to buy more products locally, we’re supporting the relaunch of our economy,” said Minister Lamontagne. Québec is currently 50% food self-sufficient.

Among the funds allocated, some $92.5 million over two years will be earmarked to support growth in the food offer and increased in productivity. The Financière Agricole du Québec will receive $24 million to accelerate agricultural investments by intervening in areas of elevated risk. A sum of $23.4 million will be used to stimulate the sale of food products from Québec and to encourage Quebecers to opt to locally produced food.

The Stratégie nationale d’achat d’aliments québécois, announced on September 22, will receive an additional $5.9 million to raise awareness among a greater number of establishments within the institutional network, such as childcare centres and daycares, to buy local food. Québec producers will also be encouraged to register with the Répertoire des aliments québécois.

$12 challenge

On behalf of the government, Minister Lamontagne also launched the “$12 challenge” to encourage support for Québec food production.

He called on Quebecers to replace, each week, $12 of their purchases with local Québec products of equal value and quality, and stated that in general “the vast majority of our products are offered at competitive prices.”

This simple gesture will have a major $1-billion impact on the agrifood industry and a $2.3-billion impact on the Québec economy.

The pandemic here for months to come

While several announcements have been made regarding future vaccines against COVID-19 and how they will be distributed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated that even though this is good news, these vaccines have not yet been approved and there are several months of pandemic ahead.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding vaccines, which ones will be approved and when,” said Mr. Trudeau, reiterating that COVID-19 rates are increasing across the country. He repeated the importance of applying the Public Health measures of mask wearing, physical distancing, hand washing and reducing social contacts, and of downloading the COVID Alert phone app.