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October 5, 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.

Acceleration of the pandemic in Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on all Canadians to make the necessary sacrifices to stem the spread of COVID-19, as the numbers of people infected, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise across the country.

“We’re moving in the wrong direction, as the director of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, has told us. The situation is worsening each and every day, keeping in mind that the numbers today are a reflection of what happened two weeks ago. We need to take action now,” said Mr. Trudeau.

The prime minister reiterated that we cannot gather with family or friends for Thanksgiving, but we must strive to salvage holiday festivities at the end of the year, “which is still possible,” he said

Mr. Trudeau stated that Canada is ready to face the second wave. Personal protective equipment is available for frontline health workers and the provinces will get all the help they need.

New financial aid benefits

Prime Minister Trudeau announced two new financial assistance measures, namely, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

Both programs offer $500 in weekly assistance.

The first program is valid for two weeks and allows those who are eligible to take sick leave if they have contracted COVID-19, if they must isolate due to COVID-19 or if they have conditions, confirmed by medical authorities, that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

The second program offers income support for up to 26 weeks for people unable to work at least 50% of the week because they must care for their child under 12 years of age or a relative because their school, daycare or care facility is closed due to COVID-19 or because a loved one is sick, in quarantine or at risk of developing serious complications related to COVID-19.

New rules and restrictions in schools

From Thursday October 8 to October 28, new rules and restrictions will be imposed in secondary schools located in the maximum alert zones (red zones), specifically, the mandatory use of face coverings at all times for students in the classroom and on school grounds.

Students in grades 10 and 11 will alternate attending school one out of every two days, but school boards will be responsible for ensuring that learning proceeds according to a regular schedule.

Québec’s minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, explained that this will reduce by 20% the number of children on school buses, at school, in the cafeteria and in the hallways.

Staff will also be required to wear a procedure mask in common areas, staff rooms and on school grounds when it is not possible to respect two-metre’s distancing.

All schools must impose a single class group at all times.

All extracurricular and inter-school activities are suspended, except for sports study and arts study programs. However, activities must be conducted in free practice, on an individual basis or in pairs. No group activities, matches or competitions are permitted.

While these measures are restrictive, Minister Roberge explained that “we’re doing this because we love our children” and we do not want to “close schools for an undetermined period.”

Organized sports and recreation suspended

All organized recreational and sports activities, as well as group courses and supervised sports are suspended from October 8 to 28 in the red zones. Only activities performed individually, in pairs (with physical distancing) or in families are permitted.

All indoor sports facilities will remain open, except for gyms and physical fitness centres, which will be closed from Thursday, October 8 to October 28.

Job opportunities in schools

To meet the need for additional school monitors, educators and caretakers, Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge announced that 2,000 people need to be recruited. They will be paid $20 to $24 an hour, with a brief paid training period for those who require it.

Those interested can apply on the government website for the “Answer the call” program at the following link https://www.quebec.ca/en/education/jobs-education/.

The minister specified that he is looking for 500 school daycare educators at the primary level, 750 caretakers and as many student monitors.

New restrictions for higher education

The minister of Higher Education, Danielle McCann, announced that CEGEPs, private colleges and universities in the red zones will have to limit the number of staff and students on campus and promote remote learning as much as possible, except in instances where students must be physically present.

Internships, including those in educational settings, as well as research and laboratory work will be maintained. Libraries will be open, but restricted to the loans counter and individual workspaces.

Health measures and the COVID Alert app

Prime Minister Trudeau underlined that Canadians must follow the measures of physical distancing, handwashing, wearing a mask and limiting social contact in order to counter the second wave of the pandemic.

He called on everyone to download COVID Alert, the Canadian government’s free app for smart phones that will help trace contacts with people who are infected and limit the spread of the virus by people who are asymptomatic.

Québec Premier François Legault called on Quebecers to do likewise because the federal government’s app is reliable, secure and does not use any personal data or track users’ locations.

Five other Canadian provinces have already signed on to the app, which can be downloaded on devices that are less than five years old. The use of the app does not replace health safety measures (physical distancing, the use of a mask, handwashing, limited social contact, etc.).