Temporary childcare centres have opened in Quebec to support frontline workers as regular daycares and schools have shuttered in wake of the novel coronavirus.
The Quebec government is operating 400 emergency childcare centres across the province for working parents who provide essential services — such as doctors, nurses and police officers — over the coming weeks.
“We have no choice because health-care workers have nowhere to put their kids and they can’t show up to work,” said Michael Cohen, a spokesperson for the English Montreal School Board (EMSB).
The emergency centres come as the Quebec government continues to ramp up measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The province has ordered all schools, daycares and post-secondary institutions closed for two weeks.
As their parents continue to work, the centres are expected to accommodate 60,000 children between the ages of four to 13.
Many of the facilities, which are located near health-care institutions, are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday. The Quebec government will assume all costs.
“We need you and it was very important for our government to put in place facilitating measures so that you can continue your work, which is essential under the circumstances,” said Quebec Families Minister Mathieu Lacombe on Sunday.
Eight centres will be open during the next two weeks at the EMSB, including one at Saint-Monica Elementary School in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood.
Janice Peterson is one of the select teachers who is working at the school. As part of her duties, she is tasked with wiping down surfaces in a strict cleaning and disinfection protocol.
While she didn’t have to work, Peterson is one of the teachers who agreed to work in the centres.
“We are taking a risk, it’s true, but these ones are taking a risk for all of mankind because they are on the frontlines in the hospital taking care of the ones that are sick,” she said. “So we have to be there for their children as well.”
The new emergency centre didn’t see many children on its first day. Nyle Robert Philip, the son of a registered nurse, was the only child there. He described it as “lonely but good.”
However, Cohen said he expects the childcare centres will quickly fill up as the week goes on.
“We’re going to have to wait for the numbers to come in,” he said. “I expect them to be low the first few days because a lot of parents are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
— With files from Global News’ Brayden Jagger Haines and Canadian PressView link »