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September 8, 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.

Four-stage alert system

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, announced the implementation of a new four-stage alert and intervention system designed to allow for better predictability and help the population adjust its behaviour in the face of the pandemic.

The alert system is based on four levels of gravity of the situation, using the colours green, yellow, orange and red. Stage 1 (green) represents contagion under control; stage 2 (yellow) indicates an increase in cases and the need for greater vigilance and intervention; stage 3 (orange) adds to the interventions of stage 2 with the restriction or prohibition of certain higher risk activities; while stage 4 (red) restricts non-essential activities for which the risk cannot be adequately controlled.

These stages are determined based on three factors: the epidemiological situation, control of transmission and capacity of the health care system.

A table of Québec’s 18 regions makes it possible to determine, for each week and each region, the evolution of the pandemic, illustrated according to the green, yellow, orange and red codes.

Soon, these tables will be further refined into sub-regions in order to better reflect the local situation, particularly for more densely populated regions, such as Montréal, Québec City, Laval, Montérégie, the Laurentians and the Outaouais.

Cooperation of municipal officials

Minister Dubé stated that the government will again be calling on the close cooperation of municipalities so that they are in direct contact with Public Health authorities in order to properly manage the evolution of the situation and effectively apply the appropriate health safety measures.

Mr. Dubé is seeking the cooperation of municipal authorities, as was the case during the generalized lockdown last winter and spring to guarantee effective monitoring and the rigorous application of guidelines.

Simple solution

For Minister Dubé, the solution is simple because “it’s in our hands,” he said, calling on Quebecers to play their role.

“We’re experiencing community transmission. It’s spreading in our neighbourhoods, our health facilities and our schools. The government is focussing on getting this under control. […] By keeping ourselves in the green stage, we’ll prevent the virus from infiltrating our neighbourhoods, our health facilities and our schools,” said Mr. Dubé.

“All Quebecers have the power to fight this virus. Each and every one of us can make the difference,” he stated, making the following play on words: “We can’t wash our hands of this: we must continue to wash our hands, wear a mask when necessary and follow physical distancing of two metres when conditions require it.”

No transmission in schools

While 120 schools have been affected by COVID-19, the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, was reassuring. The transmission is not occurring in the schools; rather, there are cases in the schools as a result of community transmission.

Penalties to come

The deputy premier and minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, is currently preparing a government strategy to align penalties with the new stages of alert, which will be determined by Public Health and destined for those who violate guidelines.

“We were pretty patient over the summer, since there was no serious contagion,” said Mr. Dubé. The penalties will be announced in the coming days.

Ministers in isolation

Minister Dubé also confirmed that three of his colleagues, the ministers of Justice, Transport and the Metropolis, Simon Jolin-Barrette, François Bonnardel and Chantal Rouleau, as well as the MNA for Vachon, Ian Lafrenière, placed themselves in isolation after having come into contact with the mayor of Longueuil, Sylvie Parent, who received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

“This shows everyone the extent to which the virus is virulent, despite all of the precautions we take,” said Mr. Dubé.

Be careful!

Dr. Arruda called for vigilance because “the cases are in the community.”

Whether it is with respect to children, family gatherings, outings in bars, the workplace or shopping, every situation poses a risk, he said.

“Meal time in particular is dangerous,” said Mr. Arruda, because people remove their masks, and sit side by side around the same table.

Assistance for commercial rents

The deputy prime minister and minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, announced that the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program will be extended for another month.

As at September 7, more than 106 000 commercial renters had benefited from the program, for a total cost of $1.3 billion.