MONTREAL -- As confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths from the coronavirus continue to rise, Quebec has extended the public health emergency in the province until April 24.

The emergency order - which was initially declared March 13 and has been extended several times since - gives the Quebec government and public-health officials broader powers to implement orders and restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

The order, signed by Health Minister Danielle McCann Wednesday night, allows professional orders governing medical professions in the province - such as nurses, respiratory therapists and medical technicians - to grant authority to people close to completing their training in these fields, as well as those who have recently retired, to practice during the public health emergency.

The order specifies that students granted special authorization to work during the public health emergency cannot have more than one full-time semester remaining in their field of study, and that retirees granted authorization must be younger than 70 years old and have worked during the past five years.

These additional workers will likely be deployed to help out at Quebec's long-term care facilities for seniors, or CHSLDs.

Many CHSLDs in the province have been hit hard by COVID-19 cases and related deaths. The order comes on the same day that McCann and Premier Francois Legault issued an urgent plea to Quebec doctors and medical specialists to help at the CHSLDs during the current crisis.

The order also formalizes the new visiting policy at the CHSLDs, which had been announced earlier this week.

Effective Thursday, patients at CHSLDs will be allowed visits from a single primary caregiver - a family member who had previously occupied that role before a public-health order last month barred any visitors to the residences.