The CAQ’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, is being called out by the Parti-Quebecois opposition party – for taking a holiday during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Arruda had been invited to participate in a conference at the Officine Expo 2020 in Marrakech, Morocco – held on February 28th to the 29th. It was not about the pandemic, but rather about the legalization of cannabis. He left Montreal on February 26th and only returned on March 8th. It was a ‘working holiday’ but apparently, most of it was vacation time. Morocco reported COVID-19 cases in early March, with one of them in Marrakech.
The Parti-Quebecois is saying ‘the timing of Arruda’s trip is an example of the Legault government’s being blind to the dangers of the outbreak, which over the months of January and February was already making itself felt around the world’ and that his ‘absence represented a loss of precious time the province could have used to prepare for the pandemic, particularly in the area of providing the health system with the resources to deal properly with its deadly impact’.
Joël Arseneau, Parti-Quebecois health critic, said he had ‘no doubt Arruda’s absence had an impact on how the crisis was handled and that measures to deal with the outbreak were taken too late’. The first COVID-19 case in Quebec was reported on February 27th, while Arruda was away. He added that the government ‘should have been taken measures to deal with the pandemic one month sooner, ensuring that enough masks were available and enough personnel were deployed in long-term care facilities’.
Upon his return, Arruda immediately went back to work. Just a few days later, along with Premier Francois Legault, they ordered all government employees returning from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days. Arruda did not self-isolate, apparently having ignored his own order. There are many wondering if his holiday time away from Quebec is an indication of the CAQ’s weakness in the early handling of the pandemic, compromising the province’s response to the crisis – making it hardest hit in Canada, with Montreal being epicenter of the pandemic. To date, Dr. Arruda has refused to make any comments.