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MONTREAL -- Many Quebec businesses will reopen gradually throughout the month of May, Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced Tuesday
Businesses in three major sectors will be among those reopening, Legault said: retail stores that are not in shopping malls (or those in malls that have outdoor entrances); construction and civil engineering companies; and manufacturing companies, plants and factories.
Shopping malls will otherwise remain closed for the time being, Legault said, as will other businesses such as restaurants, hairdressers and cultural institutions such as museums and concert venues.
Plans to reopen those other businesses will be announced at a later date, the premier said.
Retail businesses outside the Montreal area will be allowed to reopen May 4; stores in Montreal can reopen a week later, on May 11.
The entire construction sector in Quebec can reopen as of May 11, but with restrictions on the number of workers that can be on a site at any given time. Those restrictions will be lifted May 25.
"Our challenge is to gradually restart the economy without restarting the pandemic," Legault said, adding that the COVID-19 crisis is under control outside of the province's long-term care residences for seniors (CHSLDs).
"The idea here is to reopen gradually, and to have a follow up to see, is there an impact on contagion, is there an impact on the situation in our hospitals," Legault explained.
Some Quebec businesses, including residential construction, gardening centres and real estate brokerages, were granted permission to restart their work earlier this month.
Tuesday's announcement on Quebec's economy comes a day after the province outlined its plans to gradually reopen Quebec schools starting May 11.
A lack of specifics in Legault's announcement led to some criticism from political opponents. Parti Quebecois economy critic Martin Ouellet called the provincial government to establish a hotline for questions on deconfinement, such as how workspace safety inspections will be conducted.
"The economic consequences of COVID-19 are very great and plunge Quebec entrepreneurs into great uncertainty," Ouellet said in a statement. "They will need support to get back on their feet as tons of questions about specific measures will arise."
As it prepares for the reopenings, Quebec hopes to dramatically ramp up its screening capacity, in hopes of ultimately doing as much testing as all provinces combined are currently doing.
The province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said Tuesday that he’s aiming to go from the current provincial capacity of 14,000 tests per day to about 20,000.
The bigger number is the current daily capacity for all of Canada.
As is the case with reopening schools, businesses that reopen in May must continue to respect physical distancing guidelines, Legault said.
Should the reopenings contribute to increasing the spread of COVID-19 in Quebec, they will be reversed, the premier added.
Quebec also announced Tuesday that all stores in the province - except for pharmacies, depanneurs, gas stations and restaurants that offer takeout and delivery - will continue to be closed on Sundays throughout the month of May.
There are now 1,682 people who have died of COVID-19 in Quebec, health authorities announced Tuesday, as confirmed cases in the province reached 25,757.
That’s up 83 from the 1,599 deaths reported Monday; COVID-19 cases in Quebec rose 775 from the 24,982 announced a day earlier.
Legault reiterated his recent assertion that right now Quebec has "two worlds" when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic: the one inside the province's troubled CHSLDs and the one in the rest of the province.
To back up his statement, Legault presented the chart below to show the disparity in the number of COVID-19 deaths in CHSLDs and other deaths related to the virus in Quebec.
There are 1,729 people being treated for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals as of Tuesday, up 94 from the 1,541 reported Monday. Of those in a hospital, 217 are in intensive care, up seven from the 210 reported 24 hours earlier.
There are 2,789 people waiting for COVID-19 test results in Quebec as of Tuesday, down 41 from the 2,830 reported Monday.
The number of people in Quebec who have recovered from COVID-19 as of Tuesday was 5,841, up 324 from the 5,517 recoveries reported a day earlier.
With 12,034 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Montreal remains the region hardest hit by the virus; you can see a map breaking down COVID-19 by provincial region here.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.