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November 24, 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.

Vaccinations in 2021

While the United States, Great Britain and Germany might be able to start vaccinating their populations by the end of the year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that in Canada vaccinations will start at the beginning of next year, as long as the vaccines have been approved and are available.

The prime minister stated that Canada does not have decades-old capacity to mass produce vaccines and the countries that do will obviously prioritize vaccinating their own populations before permitting doses to be exported.

Mr. Trudeau explained that this is the reason Canada advance purchased more than 410 million doses.

Vaccination strategy

Canada and Québec are prepared to vaccinate the population according to different scenarios that will play out depending on the vaccines that are licensed and how they are stored, distributed and administered.

“Our teams already have experience with the H1N1 flu and influenza,” said Québec’s minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé. This fall, some 200,000 people a week have already been vaccinated against the flu.

Two gatherings over four days

Québec Premier François Legault wanted to be clear that Public Health is recommending that Quebecers limit themselves to two gatherings, with a maximum of 10 people each, during the period the government has set for Holiday gatherings, namely, December 24 to 27.

Mr. Legaut reiterated that to realize this “social contract’ with Quebecers, everyone must strive to respect the voluntary seven-day quarantine before and after the four days authorized for gatherings.

The director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, added that the conditions must be met for this to work, that is, the spread of the virus must be under control, outbreaks must be limited, and hospital capacity must be maintained. He would like to see the number of cases drop below 1,000 per day.

The premier also added that people who cannot voluntarily isolate for seven days before December 24 should abstain from gathering with their loved ones.

Six zones at elevated risk

While the spread of the virus has been stable for one month in Québec, six zones are currently at elevated risk, namely Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Estrie (Asbestos and the RCM of Granit), Gaspésie (Côte-de-Gaspé), Joliette and Lanaudière Nord, Matane in Bas-Saint-Laurent and Sorel in Montérégie.

Premier Legault called on the residents of these regions to limit their travel and social contacts and to stay home as much as possible to stop the spread of the virus.

Caution in seniors’ residences

While the situation is under control in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs), where there are currently 40 outbreaks across 400 centres, it is a whole other story in seniors’ residences, where there is rapid spread.

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, stressed that controlling the comings and goings in these residences is difficult, because the people who live there are autonomous and can gather, go out, and receive visitors. He called on them to be more vigilant in order to turn the trend around.

No vacations abroad

Premier Legault repeated that vacations abroad, over the next few weeks or months, are not recommended.

He reminded Quebecers of what happened in March, at the beginning of the pandemic, when travellers returned to Québec after the school break, leading to a rapid spread of the virus.

Mr. Legault summarized the challenge as follows: over the next few months, the population must continue to be careful and to keep up their morale.