MONTREAL -- Quebec's priority during the COVID-19 crisis remains protecting its seniors, Premier Francois Legault said Thursday, calling it "our duty."

"They built Quebec," Legault said of the province's seniors. "It is they who went through burdens. They are the ones who are leaving to us the legacy of a society that is more fair, more rich, more beautiful.

"We have a duty to protect them."

The premier said a third of the people who have died so far of COVID-19 in the province were people living in six government-run seniors residences (CHSLD) in Quebec that have been hit hard by outbreaks of the virus.

Those residences are:

  • Ste. Dorothee (Laval)
  • La Piniere (Laval)
  • Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci (Ahuntsic)
  • LaSalle (LaSalle)
  • Alfred-Desrochers (Snowdon)
  • Lafleche (Shawinigan)

"I know there's a lot of concern about seniors residences at the moment, but I don't want Quebecers to think that this situation is critical everywhere," Legault said in explaining why he was taking the unusual step of identifying the residences in question.

Legault had earlier announced that the province would be re-deploying staff from Quebec hospitals and other health-care institutions to bolster staffing at CHSLDs in order to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 among Quebec seniors.

On Thursday he specified that 450 doctors and 100 other health-workers have been re-assigned to CHSLDs.

He also said a new rule will order all workers at the residences to wear masks within two metres of any patients.

Legault reiterated his call to Quebecers to not gather with family for the coming religious holidays such as Easter and Passover, noting that he would not be visiting his mother in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue for Easter, but that he would be calling her - and he urged Quebecers to do the same with their relatives. 

Quebec announced Thursday that 216 people have now died of COVID-19 in the province and that the number of confirmed cases in Quebec stands at 10,912.

That's up 41 from the 175 deaths reported Wednesday and an increase of 881 from the 10,031 confirmed cases announced a day earlier as well.

There were 679 Quebecers being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals as of Thursday, health authorities reported, up 47 from the 632 reported a day earlier; of those, 196 are in intensive care, up 15 from the 181 reported Wednesday.

There are also 1,112 Quebecers who have recovered from COVID-19, up 285 from the 827 recoveries reported a day earlier.

Montreal continues to have by far the most cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 5,262, an increase of 487 over the past 24 hours; you can see a complete regional breakdown here.