Quebec reinstates daily COVID-19 data updates after public backlash

After hearing the public outcry, Quebec’s new health minister, Christian Dubé, says the province will resume publishing COVID-19 data every day.

“We are listening,” said Dubé in a tweet Friday, two days after the province announced it would only be publishing data on a weekly basis.

“As of Monday, the publication of daily reports on the development of [COVID-19] will resume.”

He said the Quebec government has been transparent since the start of the pandemic and will continue to be.

The province’s public health institute, INSPQ, had been publishing daily updates, including the number of cases and hospitalizations in Quebec, the number of tests conducted and how many people have died.

The data is also broken down by age and region, and indicates how many long-term care homes are experiencing outbreaks.

Province surprised by criticism

The announcement Wednesday that the province would move from daily to weekly updates drew sharp criticism, as it would have meant Quebec would be providing data less frequently than any other Canadian province, despite leading the country in the number of cases and fatalities.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the frequency of data releases in his daily news conference on COVID-19 Thursday, saying it’s up to each province to decide how transparent it needs to be. 

He said he hoped Premier François Legault would continue to be “transparent and open.”

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, said he and his team were taken aback by how strongly people reacted to the decision to stop releasing data on a daily basis. But he said he has no problem with providing the numbers daily.

WATCH | Quebec public health director explains the data decision:  

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, said public health authorities were taken by surprise by how strongly people reacted to the decision to being releasing data weekly. 1:21

“We thought we would be publishing once a week and that would be adequate. We did this without consulting the other provinces, of course, because health is a provincial jurisdiction, even if we try to align ourselves,” said Arruda at a news conference in the Eastern Townships on Friday.

“I don’t have a problem taking a step back.”

Arruda said that as Quebec’s COVID-19 curve flattened and the number of new cases and fatalities dropped, he thought it would be acceptable to publish data once a week, as Quebec does with other diseases.

The decision was not motivated by politics or communication problems, he said.

He said he misjudged how people would react to decreasing the frequency of the release of data. He said he thought people didn’t want to hear about COVID-19 cases anymore, but was mistaken.

“So Monday, everybody is going to have the information as before,” he said, urging people to forget about the blip.

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