MONTREAL -- There are now 1,340 people who have died of COVID-19 in Quebec, health authorities announced Friday, as confirmed cases in the province reached 22,616.

That’s up 97 from the 1,243 deaths reported Thursday; COVID-19 cases in Quebec rose 778 from the 21,838 announced a day earlier.

The number of deaths now surpasses the government’s most optimistic scenario of 1,263 deaths by April 30, though it is far from its most pessimistic scenario of 8,860 deaths by April 30.

There are 1,460 people being treated for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals as of Thursday, up 49 from the 1,411 reported Thursday. Of those in a hospital, 227 are in intensive care, up 20 from the 207 reported 24 hours earlier.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the reason for the increase in hospitalizations has to do with a decision to keep some patients who are recovering in hospital rather than returning them to long-term care facilities.

The number of people in Quebec who have recovered from COVID-19 as of Friday was 4,724, up 240 from the 4,484 recoveries reported a day earlier.

There are 2,776 people waiting for COVID-19 test results in Quebec as of Friday, down 231 from the 3,007 reported Thursday.

The three regions hardest hit remained Montreal with 10,897 infections, Montérégie with 2,666 and Laval with 2,482.

Legault again spoke about the gradual reopening of the economy on Friday during his daily press briefing.

“We’re going to be staying two metres away from other people for months to come, but we do need normal life to start again. We need to slowly and prudently start again with life in society,” he said.

Wearing a mask will also be recommended when people can not keep a distance, said Legault.

Quebec’s director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stressed that a mask is not a replacement for frequent handwashing and social distancing, and that the government would be issuing guidelines for how to put on, wear, and remove a mask safely.

Legault later tweeted out a demonstration:

Legault also said on Friday that the criteria to help out in the long-term care facilities has been lowered and that even volunteers without any experience can contribute.

Legault made the call in order to widen the labour pool.

Volunteers will be paid as an aide, at the hourly rate of $21.28 with premiums, or $777 per week or $3,368 per month.

Health Minister Danielle McCann said the network needs arms, not expertise.



With files from The Canadian Press