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Quebec declares residential construction, mining, landscaping essential services

MONTREAL — The Quebec government has declared that home builders, miners and landscapers provide essential services and can return to work despite COVID-19 restrictions that have brought much of the economy to a halt.

Premier Francois Legault first announced Monday that some residential construction would resume with new guidelines to keep workers safe.

"We've ensured, along with public health, that all protocols have been put in place to protect those employees," Premier Francois Legault said. "Among others, that they must always stay two metres apart from one another. We don't want to add a housing crisis on top of the one we're living through now."

Construction and renovation work on homes that had been slated for completion by July 31 will be allowed to resume next Monday.

Building inspections and land surveying for residential construction will also be permitted, and the necessary supply chains will be reopened.

Later in the day, the provincial government announced mining activities can resume Wednesday with new safety and health instructions of their own.

The number of fly-ins and fly-outs from mining sites will be reduced to a strict minimum and companies will be encouraged to use more local workers.

More chartered planes and shuttle busses will be used to transport miners to work, limiting contact with neighbouring communities.

Miners will be required to wear protective gear such as gloves and glasses while following hygienic measures such as applying disinfectant. They will also see their time on work sites extended to 28 days instead of 14.

The government sees the mining sector as a necessity for supply chains to produce essential goods, such as medical equipment, in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

"The health of Quebecers has been the Quebec government's priority since the start of this crisis and it continues to be," Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonatan Julien said in a news release.

"The mining industry, firmly established in regions of the North Shore, Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Nord-du-Quebec, and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, has worked to secure these work sites in an optimal way."

A third announcement Monday declared that landscaping firms, nurseries, garden centres and swimming pool businesses will be allowed to reopen Wednesday.

Agriculture Minister Andre Lamontagne said in a statement that in the current health context, making it easier for people to grow a vegetable garden could help promote food self-sufficiency.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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