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November 26, 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.

Two Christmas gatherings

Québec Premier François Legault stressed that the decision to allow or not to allow two gatherings over the Holidays, between December 24 to 27, essentially depends on the behaviour of Quebecers between now and then.

“The more careful people are before Christmas, the greater the chances that they will be able to enjoy two gatherings,” said the premier. He explained that these gatherings during the pandemic “take into account the mental health” of people whose spirits will be lifted by seeing their loved ones.

Québec’s director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, reiterated that people must exercise caution and take extra precautions before Christmas, while continuing to respect the guidelines of physical distancing and the wearing of masks indoors.

The premier reiterated that the “moral contract” he is offering Quebecers remains conditional on the health situation being under control right before Christmas. Mr. Legault also reiterated that there is a thin margin of manoeuvre between prohibiting gatherings or allowing them if these conditions are respected.

After-Christmas sales

Given that two gatherings of 10 people maximum are permitted at the moment, between December 24 and 27, the government evaluated the adoption of special measures for after-Christmas sales, in order to limit crowding in stores.

The premier stated that the government is in discussions with mall owners, stores as well as police to determine specific measures for this period of sales and gift exchanging. “I’m a bit worried,” he said.

While there is no question about closing stores, merchants will have to ensure the wearing of masks, physical distancing and a maximum number of people inside their establishments.

Vaccination: Ready for January 1

While awaiting confirmation from the federal government regarding the date of distribution and the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses that will be received in Québec next year, Premier Legault stressed that Québec’s Public Health teams will be ready on January 1 for the vaccination campaign.

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, added that the current influenza vaccination campaign is an excellent exercise for the one that will have to be put in place for COVID-19.

Mr. Legault specified that people in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs), health care staff and seniors will be the first to receive the vaccine.

While the vaccine has brought hope, the “battle is not over. We must respect the guidelines. This is what will save lives,” said Mr. Legault.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, stated that three million Canadians could be vaccinated between now and the end of March if the vaccine is approved and delivered as planned.

New on-the-job training

The minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, Jean Boulet, announced a $114.6-million program for some 20,000 people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and could receive $500 a week to attend training with a view to working in sectors where labour shortages exist.

This assistance will replace the employment insurance program or the federal government’s Canadian Emergency Response Benefit when unemployed workers are no longer eligible.

The people targeted by this program are, in particular, those working in health, the hotel and tourism industry, the retail sector and transportation. Candidates will have to meet with an assistance officer by March 31 and start short-term training, between 300 and 800 hours, on September 25, 2021, at the latest.