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November 5, 2020 – Provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

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

Too soon to lighten the health rules

While acknowledging that Public Heath regional authorities are discussing various scenarios for loosening the health rules in order to reduce risk factors to the population’s mental health, Québec Premier François Legault believes that it is premature to do so.

“The battle is not yet won in Montréal,” the premier said, in response to the confirmed information leak that the Direction régionale de santé publique de Montréal would recommend reopening gyms, with restrictions, as well as restaurant terraces, museums and libraries, even in a red zone.

“The way it works is that each regional health board makes recommendations to the national board, which then presents us with its recommendations. But at the end of the day, the government makes the final decision,” said Mr. Legault.

New measures being studied for colleges and universities

Acknowledging that the application of societal restrictions and health rules creates a difficult balancing act between saving lives and preserving Quebecers’ quality of life, Mr. Legault asked Public Health officials to assess the measures that would be needed to make it possible to hold individual meetings for those attending colleges and universities in the current restrictive context.

Mental health crisis

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, noted that Quebecers are worried about the pandemic and this is leading to more stress.

Dr. Arruda said that there has been an increase in alcohol consumption and drugs, reflecting a greater level of anxiety.

“It’s like we’re walking a tightrope,” he said, explaining that authorities must determine if measures can be loosened to give people cause for hope, without leading to new cases of infection.

Two regions particularly at risk

Two regions are presently recording a high increase in people infected with COVID-19, namely, Lac-Saint-Jean and northern Lanaudière, which is worrying government officials.

Premier Legault stated that he has asked Public Health boards and the police to intervene to ensure that health rules are better respected in order to counter the growing contagion.

Restaurants must remain closed

The premier will not take it lightly if certain restaurant owners act on their claims that they will reopen tomorrow, even in red zones, in defiance of the health rules. This also applies to their customers, who have already started making reservations in support of their protest movement.

“The rules must be respected. The police will make sure of it,” stated Mr. Legault. Anyone contravening the rules will be liable to fines of $1,500 to $6,000 a day.

Herd immunity

Dr. Arruda said that herd immunity no longer seems to be a solution for reducing health measures.

“We’re focusing on a treatment or vaccine as the solution,” he said, since acquired immunity seems to last only a few months.