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Montreal stores, daycares to open as planned as Quebec reports fewest deaths since April 12
MONTREAL -- Quebec Premier François Legault announced Monday that Montreal-area businesses and daycares will reopen as planned on May 25 and June 1, respectively, as the daily death toll in the province hit its lowest point since April 12.
Health Minister Danielle McCann also announced that non-urgent surgeries at Quebec hospitals, most of which were paused as the health system confronted the COVID-19 pandemic, will now gradually resume throughout the province.
“We are now arriving at a new stage,” Legault said.
There are now 3,596 people who have died of COVID-19 in Quebec, health authorities announced Monday, as confirmed cases in the province reached 43,627.
That’s up 34 from the 3,562 deaths reported Sunday – the lowest daily increase recorded by the province since April 12, when 32 deaths were reported.
COVID-19 cases in Quebec rose 707 in one day, from the 42,920 announced Sunday.
Though the government has received the green light to reopen daycares in the Montreal region on June 1, Legault reminded parents they will only be able to accommodate half of their usual capacity.
“We have restrained the number of spots in daycares for questions of distancing,” he said. “Parents need to know there’s not enough places for every child, so I appeal to your patience.”
The government is looking at the possibility of day camps serving as a stand-in for childcare for parents who have to work over the summer.
With summer right around the corner, Legault and the province’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said they’re currently looking at different deconfinement plans to determine what’s acceptable as far as physically distant gatherings are concerned. They don’t recommend people gathering at all just yet but say keeping two metres of distance from others is the rule of thumb.
“We’re not crazy, we’re very conscious of this and we also experience it,” Arruda said. “It’s unfortunate, but we can’t go back to what it was before.”
They’re looking at different options, like “pairing,” which would allow certain people to gather with just one or two other households as the province continues its fight against COVID-19.
When it comes to resuming surgeries, McCann said an estimated 68,000 have been postponed across Quebec, and that establishments that have enough staff and material to resume activities have been asked to do so. Those located in COVID-19 cold zones will likely resume at a normal rate right away.
Montreal surgeries will slowly pick back up, since its hospitals are busier, McCann said. Health officials are examining the possibility of expanding operating hours, coming to agreements with private clinics, or transferring patients to other regions, if need be.
In response to criticism from those who think he’s reopening the province too early, Legault said Quebec has met all the criteria outlined by the World Health Organization.
“What’s important is the trend. The trend is good for hospitalizations, the trend is even good on the death toll,” he said. “It allows us to in fact take that bet, and in order to win that bet I need the collaboration of all Quebecers.”
Legault reiterated the importance of handwashing and keeping two metres apart from other people, and he strongly recommended wearing a mask on public transportation and in stores – but he maintained that he doesn’t want to make it mandatory.
“I would prefer for people to be sufficiently responsible to wear it,” Legault said. “As soon as we make it mandatory, we have to ask questions. [Are] the police going to check?”
He’s also asking Quebecers to buy masks if they have the means, so people who aren’t able to can benefit from the free ones supplied by the province.
PREDICTING THE CURVE
There are 1,771 people being treated for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals as of Monday, up only five from the 1,766 reported Sunday. Of those in a hospital, 179 are in intensive care, down four from the 183 reported 24 hours earlier.
There are 2,683 people waiting for COVID-19 test results in Quebec as of Monday, down 617 from the 3,300 reported Sunday.
The number of people in Quebec who have recovered from COVID-19 as of Monday was 12,045, up 291 from the 11,754 recoveries reported a day earlier.
The government said, once again, that most of the province’s confirmed COVID-19 cases are confined to long-term care homes. On his recent trip to Montreal – the province’s COVID-19 epicentre – Legault was able to see that there are serious problems within the long-term care home structure that existed long before the COVID-19 virus.
“It allowed me to better understand the reality of those who live, on a daily basis, the managing of CHSLDs,” he said. Over the next few months, the government said it will be reforming the homes.
Arruda said that as the province moves towards deconfinement, there will undoubtedly be new cases of the virus.
“What we want to avoid is a significant increase that may create a wave,” he said, adding that if there’s an outbreak in a given workplace, they will try to contain it so it doesn’t spread.
Though some have called for mass testing of the entire population, citing other countries who have used the method in their fight against COVID-19, Arruda said he thinks antibody testing is more relevant. If you test someone and they receive a negative result, there’s nothing stopping them from catching the virus later, Arruda said.
“I believe that we will end up having immunity at some point in the population… But in Quebec it is probably no higher than three or four per cent (of people who have been infected),” he said. “There’s too little information… The data (is) based on few people, because we don’t necessarily have a large quantity of people.”
Legault said studies are advancing in Quebec, but more people infected with COVID-19 are needed as participants. He’s asking them to sign up, and said it would be a proud moment for the province if a treatment were discovered here.
“It’s not complicated,” he said. “You get the medication at home, you also get all the equipment to be able to conduct the tests.”
Legault said the government will announce plans for the tourism sector imminently, but he hopes that Quebecers who usually vacation in the states will do so across Quebec once travelling becomes an option.
“If we don’t want to go back and put the brakes on the reopening, we need to follow public health instructions,” Legault said. “We need to keep our distances and wear a mask in public. I’m counting on you all.”
With 22,028 confirmed cases, Montreal remains the region of the province hardest hit by COVID-19; you can see a regional breakdown of COVID-19 in Quebec here.