MONTREAL -- Quebec's public health institute says deaths could spike in the greater Montreal area if physical distancing measures designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 are lifted.

New projections posted to the institute's website show deaths could rise to 150 a day by July in the city and its surrounding regions, now the epicentre of the virus in Canada.

The institute, which worked with experts from Laval University, says new cases could soar to 10,000 a day by June amid a potential surge in hospitalizations.

"A small increase in social contact could lead to a rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths," it said.

Montreal has recorded 18,435 cases of COVID-19 and 1,727 deaths, making it by far the hardest-hit part of the country. On top of viral outbreaks in long-term care homes, several other parts of the greater Montreal area are witnessing sustained community transmission.

Premier Francois Legault said this week that elementary schools, daycares and retail stores with outdoor entrances in Montreal can reopen on May 25, pushing back the date for a second time.

The institute's model shows that lifting lockdown measures in the rest of Quebec would likely result in a slight increase in cases outside of Montreal.

The projection does not include long-term care homes and incorporates a breadth of projections that are "tough to determine," the institute said.

Optimism v. pessimism in the COVID-19 curve

The Quebec government has started to ramp up testing, carrying out 12,194 since Friday afternoon.

The latest data from the provincial government reveals 836 new cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of Quebecers infected to 36,986.

The province recorded 61 new deaths, bringing the toll to 2,786.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2020.