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October 23, 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.

Record number of cases in the country

The pandemic continues to intensify in Canada as the country reported a record number of people infected (2,788) and hospitalizations continue to rise, which prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to remind the population to take action to reduce the contagion.

“People’s lives are at stake. We cannot afford to be carefree,” Mr. Trudeau said.

While keenly aware that the efforts that must be maintained are demanding after eight months of collective and personal sacrifices, Mr. Trudeau called on people to respect the health guidelines. “We managed to flatten the curve in the spring, and I know we can do it again this fall,” he said.

Critical situation in Québec City and Lévis

In Québec, the pandemic situation is particularly critical in the National Capital and Chaudière-Appalaches regions where hospitals have started to cut care in certain activity sectors due to the large number of hospitalizations, but also due to outbreaks among health staff.

The deputy premier of Québec, Geneviève Guilbault, said that there is a major slackening in the population’s adherence to health measures and that if the situation continues to deteriorate, many people will see their surgeries and medical treatments postponed.

Psychological exhaustion

The deputy premier stated that the generalized slackening of the population’s behaviour in terms of applying health measures in the context of the pandemic is understandable after months of constraints and deprivation.

“Everyone is tired of the pandemic. We’re very aware and empathetic, but we must absolutely take action and pull together. […] Now is the time to double our efforts, because the situation is very critical,” she said, primarily addressing those who are not following the health guidelines or have stopped doing so.

Telework, now more than ever

In some regions, such as the National Capital, half (46%) of the COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in the workplace, which prompted Deputy Minister Guilbault to insist that businesses favour telework in order to reduce the risk of contagion and outbreaks.

She said that the minister of Labour, Jean Boulet, has mandated inspectors from the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) to conduct a new round of visits to businesses to ensure that health and safety rules are being respected in the workplace.

Distribution of rapid tests

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government has started receiving the first rapid screening tests from the Abbott pharmaceutical company.

Hundreds of thousands of tests are being distributed across Canada and more deliveries will follow shortly. Québec should receive some 60,000 tests soon.

The race for a vaccine

The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is still on and the Canadian government has injected an additional $173 M to help Medicago in Québec City develop its vaccine.

Mr. Trudeau stressed that these funds will serve, in particular, to speed up research and set up a production facility, also in Québec City. In addition, over $41 M will be invested for other vaccines in Canada, including $18.2 M for Precision NanoSystems, in Vancouver.

The prime minister said that every effort is being deployed so that a vaccine is made accessible as quickly as possible, while intimating that, at best, vaccination could begin early in the new year.