MONTREAL -- As Quebec continues to report about 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day, Quebecers who are able to work from home should be working from home, the provincial government says. 

Premier Francois Legault made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday alongside Health Minister Christian Dube and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda. 

"The Chambre de commerce de Montreal will not like me for saying this," Legault said, just two hours after Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante announced measures to help businesses in the city centre survive the pandemic. Before the second wave of the pandemic hit, Plante asked Montrealers to head back to their downtown offices. 

“We need more people to work from home because (work is) a place where there are infections," Legault said. "All those who can work from home should.”

Legault stressed that the state of the COVID-19 pandemic remains worrisome in the province as Thursday's update saw 20 more people die from the disease. 

"And when we say 20 deaths, these are not just statistics, these are real people," he said. “...All those who criticize or want to criticize the measures – well think about these 20 people who have died."

While officials have said they are glad the daily number of new cases seems to have hit a plateau at 1,000 per day -- Legault stressed that the situation will only get worse if measures are not maintained. 

“Unfortunately when we look at the other countries, we see that the situation is getting worse every day," he said. "One thing is clear: the second wave is here, and the second wave is very strong – just about everywhere in the world." 

“We would have liked, obviously, to see a decrease in the number of cases but it seems to be frozen at 1,000 new cases per day, and 1,000 cases per day – we cannot sustain this,” he added. 

Legault reiterated that closing restaurants and bars was a necessary move, despite the measures owners have put in place to curb the spread of the virus. 

“(Customers) don’t always respect the two-metre distance and that’s not the restaurant owner's fault, but if we decided tomorrow morning to reopen restaurants we increase the risk that the virus would spread more," he said. 

The province's main priority remains to protect the healthcare system, prevent deaths, and keep schools open. He pointed to Boston, just a mere five hours away from Montreal -- where public schools were recently closed. 

“That is the last thing on my list that I want to do -- is to close our public schools," he said. "I think that we owe this to our children to do all that we can to protect our public schools.” 

Dube said he has trouble sleeping at night as the province grapples with its battle against the pandemic. 

"I might have a couple of hard weeks over the next few weeks," he said in response to a reporter who asked why he's struggling. He specified that the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the province are worrying him. 

Quebec public health authorities announced Thursday that 1,033 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

During the same period, authorities report that eight people have died due to the disease in addition to 12 deaths which occured between Oct. 15 and Oct. 20.

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases in the province since the start of the pandemic is now 97,321, and 6,094 people have died.

The highest increase in cases was on the Island of Montreal which reported 298 new cases (40,233 total) followed by Quebec City with 168 more (7,865 total) and Monteregie with 138 new cases (14,224 total).

The number of hospitalizations decreased with 12 fewer people in the province's hospitals, for a total of 553. Of those, 101 are in the intensive care ward, an increase of seven.

Quebec reports that 766 more people have recovered from the disease for a total of 82,033.

Health-care professionals analyzed 26,070 samples on Oct. 20. (Quebec releases its testing data from two days prior to its daily updates).