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October 26, 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.

Restrictive measures prolonged

Given the strength of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Québec Premier François Legault is prolonging until November 23 the restrictive measures that were supposed to be lifted on Wednesday, October 28.

“We’ll have to pursue our efforts for another four weeks […] The financial assistance measures for businesses that are required to be closed will also be prolonged until November 23,” said the premier.

While he congratulated Quebecers, whose actions have made it possible to stabilize the number of cases diagnosed each day to around 1,000, this number is still too high for the public health system to handle. “The situation is serious. We can’t continue seeing 10 deaths a day,” said Mr. Legault.

The extension of the measures until November 23 will be reassessed in two weeks if the average number of cases per day over seven days stabilizes around 500 and if hospitalizations and outbreaks are under control.

Grade 9 students in the classroom every other day

Like students in grades 10 and 11, students in Grade 9 will now go to school every other day starting next Monday in maximum alert zones (red zones), with the goal of reducing the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Premier Legault explained that, based on the science, the capacity to transmit the coronavirus is greater among older children than younger ones, which is what is leading to outbreaks in high schools.

Fines and forced closures for offending businesses

Since almost half (46%) of COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in the workplace, the government will intensify inspections in businesses to ensure that health safety measures are being applied and respected.

This blitz in visits will lead to fines for offending businesses and forced closures if they reoffend, said the premier.

Mr. Legault reiterated that keeping schools open and work are the priorities, while encouraging employers to favour telework. “If telework isn’t possible, health rules must be followed,” said Mr. Legault.

Choosing the lesser of two evils

The premier completely understands the exasperation of many business owners who want to resume their activities, but reiterated that the closures and restrictions must be respected, or fines may ensue.

“We must strike a balance among the inconveniences. We must choose the lesser of two evils,” he said in response to certain gym and fitness centre operators who want to reopen as fast as possible for the physical and mental well-being of their members.

“We must make an effort during November, with the goal of being able to spend the Holidays among friends,” he said.

140,000 surgeries delayed

The minister of health and social services, Christian Dubé, revealed that since the onset of the pandemic in March, 140,000 people have seen their surgery postponed due to the work overload in hospitals caused by COVID-19.

He explained that with 500 hospitalizations related to the coronavirus, it is impossible for the health network to recover from these delays, which are only going to get worse.

Normally, 40,000 surgeries are performed each month in Québec. To catch up on the backlog from the last few months, 5,000 to 10,000 more surgeries would have to be performed each month.