Dr. Horacio Arruda: a source of comfort for Quebecers during COVID-19 outbreak

Horacio Arruda, Quebec director of National Public Health responds to reporters questions at a daily news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic. Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS

From stern orders to wash your hands to calling on Quebecers to do something that makes them happy, Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda has undoubtedly become Quebec’s national treasure during these difficult times.

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On Saturday following his press conference alongside Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault and Health Minister Danielle McCann, the now-famous doctor was found fishing in Quebec City’s Old Port. The medical professional took advantage of the audience that he had collected to give a crash-course in hand washing.

Esiane Turcotte posted the video of Arruda making jokes and even posing for a social distance picture.

“We congratulate you for the marvelous work you do. Thank you for supporting our community with so much heart,” Turcotte wrote.

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Every day at 1 p.m., Quebecers flock to their TV screens to receive updates on the novel coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the world and la belle province.

But even those who are less inclined to watch the news impatiently wait to watch Dr. Arruda’s next meme-able move. His optimism, charisma, passionate hand gestures and detailed examples allow a wide audience to not only understand the implications of the virus, but get a little chuckle as well.

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Most recently,  Arruda went viral (online) once again for his animated explanation of how to flatten the curve — a term many people around the world are now familiar with — which essentially means to slow the progression of infection and avoid a disastrous peak that could overcrowd our hospitals at almost a point of no return, as seen in Italy, Spain and now New York.

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His fans even created a daily event titled “Horacio SHOW – Tous les jours!” on Facebook. His show, of course, is his daily briefings alongside Premier François Legault and Minister McCann.

“Horacio, notre héros” — the Facebook page in honour of the likable doctor —  is updated daily with dozens of posts by fans highlighting their self-isolation Arruda-inspired creations.

From colouring books, to mugs and cutting boards, Quebecers have found their own way to pay tribute to the highly-skilled Doctor at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus in Quebec.

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On March 21, the group organized a live pastéis de nata (portuguese tarts) making event alongside Luso-Montrealers Dr. Christine Pacheco and Glenn Castanheira.

The event came after Dr. Arruda’s viral confession that he’d be attempting another pastéis de nata recipe over the weekend instead of going out into public spaces where COVID-19 contamination could occur.

Dr. Arruda is the only child of Portuguese immigrants from the Açores islands. In an interview for Montreal’s Portuguese newspaper A Voz de Portugal, his cousin Tomy Botelho described Arruda as a generous man.

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He obtained a doctorate of Medecine from Sherbrooke University where he later specialized in community health and prevention. Dr. Arruda lead the fight against  SARS in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009.


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