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MONTREAL -- There are now 121 Quebecers who have died from COVID-19 and the number of confirmed cases in Quebec has hit 8,580, health authorities announced Monday.
That's an increase of 27 from the 94 deaths and up 636 from the 7,944 cases reported across the province 24 hours earlier.
"It's hard," Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Monday. "You don't get used to those numbers, and behind those numbers, of course, are people and families."
There are 533 Quebecers being treated for COVID-19 in hospital as of Monday afternoon, health authorities reported, up only eight from Sunday; 164 of them are in intensive care, an increase of just 10 from the day before.
Legault said he was encouraged by the relatively few new hospitalizations, which he said may indicate a "light at the end of the tunnel."
"It's encouraging. Of course, it's one day," Legault said. "But what that means is that if we have a few days like these ones, we could say that we're getting closer to the peak and getting back to normal. Closer to getting back to normal life."
But he warned that April could be the most difficult month of the pandemic in Quebec and urged Quebecers to not let up in their efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
"We can't take any chances," Legault said. "Can't loosen any of the measures - we have to continue doing what we have to do correctly.
"We hope that it's going to be the last difficult month, but the month of April will be critical."
There are 2,942 Quebecers awaiting COVID-19 test results; 91,533 tests have come back negative.
Health officials also reported that 611 Quebecers who had contracted COVID-19 have now recovered.
Montreal continues to have far and away the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec, with 3,977; you can see a complete regional breakdown of Quebec cases here.
Legault on Monday also addressed the news that the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal is preventing women who are giving birth there to bring a companion with them into the delivery room.
The premier reiterated that it was a necessary measure for the JGH given its high number of COVID-19 cases, but said that women in all other Quebec hospitals could bring a companion with them.
Health Minister Danielle McCann added that women at the JGH who would prefer to move to another hospital where they could deliver their baby with a companion on hand may do so.
MONEY FOR BUSINESSES
Legault also announced that his government will spend $100 million so that businesses in the province can train their employees and provide them with the resources to work remotely.
"It's a golden opportunity to prepare our businesses for what comes next," Legault said. "At the same time, it will allow us to keep more people working."
Labour and Employment Minister Jean Boulet said the financial assistance is intended to cover salaries up to a maximum rate of $25 per hour as well as training fees.
Businesses that are closed due to the pandemic are still eligible to apply, with all businesses able to receive a maximum of $100,000.
Boutlet estimated that between 550,000 and 600,000 people in Quebec have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
At the province's daily briefing Sunday, Legault had announced he was extending the closing of all non-essential businesses and services in Quebec from April 13 to May 4.
Only those with online services and whose employees are all working remotely can continue to operate during what Legault has called a "pause" on Quebec's economy.
-With files from The Canadian Press