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Coronavirus: Quebec to inject $2.5 billion for struggling businesses amid COVID-19 outbreak

Quebec premier and officials provide update on COVID-19.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced Thursday a $2.5-billion aid package to help businesses weather the current economic crisis caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Legault said that measures currently in place to limit the spread of the disease are having a serious impact on the economy.

“The measures we took to save lives and protect health has had a negative impact on the economy,” he said at a press conference in Quebec City.

“It was the lesser of two evils.”

He reminded Quebecers, however, that the economic crisis is a temporary one.

“At some point, the economy will recover,” he said.

The $2.5 billion will be used to help businesses experiencing liquidity problems connected to coronavirus.

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READ MORE: How Montreal employers are handling the COVID-19 outbreak

Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon specified that businesses applying for assistance will not only have to show a causal link to the coronavirus pandemic but also show profitability after.

“The government will be offering loans and loan guarantees of a minimum of $50,000 and very advantageous rates,” he said.

While he admitted the government won’t be able to save all businesses the program will go a long way to help.

He also didn’t rule out the possibility of adding more money to the program if need be.

On Monday, the Quebec government rolled out a new temporary program to financially support workers who are not eligible for other income replacement programs and who are affected by containment measures.

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Legault said all Quebecers can do their part to help the struggling economy by buying locally, even when purchasing online.

READ MORE: Quebec rolls out temporary financial aid program as number of coronavirus cases climbs to 50

Earlier in the day, the premier urged people to stay at home and limit travel between regions as the number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus jumped to 121 on Thursday.

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“It’s not time to be in shopping centres. It’s not the time to spend an hour and a half at restaurants,” Legault said..

There are seven people who are hospitalized due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. As of Thursday, about 4,000 people are awaiting test results and nearly 6,000 individuals have been given the all clear.

So far, the health crisis has led to one death in the province. The victim was an elderly woman who had contact with travellers.

READ MORE: Quebec premier takes lead on coronavirus crisis as former foes rally behind him

The healthcare system is ready to administer at least 5,000 tests per day as of Thursday, according to Legault. He also wants to assure Quebecers that there is no shortage of masks or respirators in hospitals and clinics.

“We have all the equipment we need,” he said.

Quebec municipalities are asked to cancel or postpone meetings and consultations that require the presence of citizens amid the outbreak.

Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest issued the request on Thursday in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19.

‘Transform this into something positive’

Over the past week, the province has rolled out expansive measures to address the pandemic including closing schools, banning large indoor gatherings and asking seniors to stay home.

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While people have been asked to limit their contact with others, the director of Quebec public health said it is the time to do things you enjoy while avoiding crowds.

“Take advantage of the things you love to do and never have the time to do on your own,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda.

READ MORE: Concordia University tells students to leave residence by Sunday

Arruda, for his part, said he took the time to cook new recipes while practicing social-distancing measures on the weekend.

“Transform this into something positive,” he said.

As cases spike, unions representing construction workers are calling on the province to temporarily close work sites.

In a letter, FTQ Construction and the Conseil provincial du Québec des métiers de la construction say Legault must act now to protect employees.

They say in their letter that the hygiene measures recommended to counter the spread of the virus “are not used on construction sites,” which makes workers vulnerable.

The demand comes as the province has shut down schools and non-essential services in a bid to contain the virus. Under the government’s guidelines, workers who are able to work from home have been asked to do so.

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— With files from the Canadian Press