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September 11, 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.

Call for solidarity

The prerequisite for returning to normal life in Québec is to control the pandemic and, to do that, Quebecers must follow the health prevention guidelines, said Premier François Legault.

This is a gesture of solidarity and responsibility that everyone should be making. “I need the cooperation of all Quebecers,” he said.

Following a caucus with all of his party’s MNAs, and after having completed a tour this summer of all of Québec’s regions, the premier stated that citizens have two priorities: health and the economy.

For the premier, safeguarding people’s health and relaunching the economy means putting the pandemic behind us. And this means preventing a second wave of COVID-19 contagion.

Shared responsibility

Mr. Legault reiterated that “the majority of cases of transmission are currently in homes. We cannot hold big indoor parties. This has led to too much contagion over the last few weeks.”

The premier stated that right now his main concern is to prevent “the second wave of the pandemic.” Despite an upsurge in cases, the premier and the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, insist that Québec has not yet entered a second wave.

Major fines

The premier confirmed that the cabinet must approve the protocols and fines that will be imposed on those who refuse to wear a mask.

The provisions that will enable police officers to issue tickets will also establish how masks must be worn properly in order to prevent people from deliberately wearing them incorrectly.

While the fines are going to be severe, as they are for business owners, the government plans to ask police officers to use persuasion over issuing tickets.

Buy locally

Premier Legault also addressed the major structural changes that the pandemic has caused and that will persist, particularly for retail business, which will be slower than before the pandemic, and international trade.

In this context, it is important to focus on relaunching the local economy and encouraging the purchase of Québec-made products.

Job loss and creation

While the economy is recovering more quickly here than elsewhere in the country, Premier Legault stressed that there will nevertheless be permanent job losses, but new opportunities will also emerge, particularly in education, health, construction and technologies.

Mr. Legault announced that the government is working on a program to assist people who will have to return to studies and change fields of work to make that transition.

In the same spirit, the government wants to accelerate the green economy, particularly in electric transportation, including trains, tramways and electric trucks.

Karaoke banned and mandatory registry

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, thought that the rules for bars were sufficiently clear and that bar patrons would understand that they must remain seated and wear a mask when they move around inside, which implicitly excluded the possibility of karaoke.

In light of cases in a Québec City bar that led to a COVID-19 outbreak, the government has formally banned karaoke, and is now imposing a registry of anyone entering the bar in order to enable contact tracing and facilitate health investigations.

Weekly lists for schools

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, explained that he removed the list of schools where cases of infection have been identified because the data was inadequate and of inferior quality.

Mr. Dubé explained that it was premature, with the return to school, to ask the principals of Québec’s 3,000 schools to complete a daily form with an accounting of all cases, each and every day.

“I think that we’ll eventually be able to provide a weekly list,” said Mr. Dubé.

 However, he wanted to reassure parents that they will be automatically informed if there is a case in the school attended by their child.

 26,000 screening tests

 Québec conducted a record number of COVID-19 screening tests on Wednesday, surpassing 26,000 tests, which partially explains the uptick in recorded cases, Premier Legault said with caution.

 The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, was critical, however, of the wait times of up to three hours, which is much too long, particularly now with the cold weather coming.  

He urged that the online form that people complete to determine if they should be tested should lead to a specific appointment time rather than a referral to a screening site.

 Virtual meeting with the premiers

 The Council of the Federation meeting, which was supposed to bring together Canada’s premiers on September 24 and 25, will not be held in Québec as planned, even if virtual working meetings will go ahead.

 Premier Legault explained that the requirement of the Maritime premiers to quarantine for 14 days prompted him to cancel the event and transform it into a virtual working meeting.

 This is the second time in three months that this meeting has been postponed due to the pandemic.

 Resumption of extracurricular activities on Monday

 The minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, and the minister for Education and the minister responsible for the Status of Women, Isabelle Charest, confirmed the resumption of extracurricular activities, specialized activities and special projects, including sports-study programs, arts-study program and interscholastic sports, staring Monday across Québec.

 This resumption is possible as long as the overall pandemic situation remains under control, two weeks after the return to school and in the agreement with Public Health officials.

 The activities will be limited to two distinct groups for each student, in addition to their class group, and will be subject to the four-tier COVID-19 alert system presented on Tuesday by the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé.

 As long as a given region remains within the green or yellow alert zones, that is, levels 1 or 2, pedagogical and extracurricular activities will be authorized. If the region transitions into the orange zone (level 3), the activities will be permitted, but only within the stable class group.

In the event of a red alert (level 4), all extracurricular activities will be suspended and optional courses for stable groups will be possible, as for sub-groups for professional services.