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Coronavirus: Quebec cases climb to 219, schools to remain closed until May

WATCH: Quebec government gives update on COVID-19 response, Sunday March 22

For updates on school and business closures, Hydro-Quebec bill payments, testing clinics and more, see below.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Quebec climbed to 219 Sunday, with 24 people hospitalized, including 13 people in intensive care, and four fatalities.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Quebec deaths climb to 5, cases rise to 181

The Quebec government announced 38 newly confirmed novel coronavirus cases on Sunday and corrected the number of COVID-19 deaths — they had previously said there were five coronavirus deaths in Quebec.

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec cases climb, most businesses asked to close
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec cases climb, most businesses asked to close

Health officials said one individual believed to have been infected and died had in fact tested negative for the virus. The results came in after the person’s death.

Premier François Legault said the four confirmed COVID-19 deaths were of people who lived in the same seniors’ residence.

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As of Sunday, there are over 2,000 people under investigation and over 9,700 test results have come back negative.

Coronavirus outbreak: All shopping malls in Quebec to close until May 1
Coronavirus outbreak: All shopping malls in Quebec to close until May 1

There is still only one confirmed full recovery in the province — a person who tested negative twice after having been infected. Quebec’s public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda, however, said health officials believe many more individuals have probably recovered.

The Quebec government reiterated that its health care system is ready to handle an influx of patients, as it has over 4,500 hospital beds ready to treat COVID-19 patients across the province.

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec schools to remain closed until May 1
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec schools to remain closed until May 1

It also reiterated that the continuous increase in numbers is expected, as the province is increasing the amount of tests it is administering every day.

New Montreal drive-thru testing clinic

The CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Ile-de-Montreal announced Sunday that a new COVID-19 drive-thru testing clinic will open in the city’s downtown Quartier des Spectacles district on Jeanne-Mance Street as of Monday at 8 a.m.

The new clinic will replace the current “by-appointment” clinic at Hôtel-Dieu hospital which is set to close to further appointments as of Sunday night.

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec reports no new COVID-19 related deaths, records 38 new cases
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec reports no new COVID-19 related deaths, records 38 new cases

The new clinic will be able to accommodate between 2,000 and 2,500 people daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

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Officials say appointments aren’t necessary and people can come by car or by foot.

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Schools to remain closed until May

The government confirmed that all elementary and high schools across in Quebec will remain closed until May 1 and all Cegeps and universities will resume their semesters online.

Legault also said there will not be any ministry exams at the end of the year. Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said the government will work with schools and parents to provide at-home learning capsules and educational activities for children. Roberge, however, said the learning capsules and activities will all be optional and not mandatory.

READ MORE: Quebec schools could remain closed until May as coronavirus cases climb to 139

All daycares will also stay closed until May 1 with the exception of the emergency child care centres for essential care workers, which includes all healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters — but does not include grocery store or pharmacy workers.

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec to help essential care service workers via emergency child care centres
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec to help essential care service workers via emergency child care centres

Hydro-Quebec to suspend actions against unpaid bills

Hydro-Quebec announced that it will be suspending its actions against unpaid bills.

“Due to the many consequences of the COVID-19 crisis in Canada, we’re conscious of the fact that some of our clients may face financial challenges in the coming weeks,” a statement from Hydro-Quebec said.

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The provider said it will cease cutting off power to those unable to pay their electricity bills — residential or business.

Hydro is asking Quebecers who are having financial difficulties to make arrangements by calling their customer service line.

In addition, it announced that there will no longer be service interruptions, as they will only conduct work on the power system if absolutely necessary.

Quebec government says health network is equipped with what it needs
Quebec government says health network is equipped with what it needs

Government asks more businesses to close

As of midnight Sunday, the government is asking all malls, stores, hair salons and beauty businesses to close.

Officials previously ordered the closure of all public spaces that accommodate large crowds, including gyms, libraries, public pools, cinemas and more.

Legault asked that all restaurant dining rooms close and offer take-out and delivery only. The premier also took the opportunity to remind Quebecers to support local businesses, if they can, in this difficult economic time.

On Friday, Loto-Québec announced it would move the sale of its lottery tickets online.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, the SAQ and the SQDC will remain open.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Montreal bars worried they’ll go out of business

On Sunday the City of Montreal also announced the closure of all its public outdoor parks in the city.

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Quebec government says fines, arrests face people who don’t respect self-isolation

On Friday, police arrested a woman in Quebec City who was infected with the virus and walking around outside after being mandated to stay indoors. The arrest was the first time public health issued an order to Quebec City police under emergency powers granted after Legault declared a public health emergency on March 14.

Quebec’s public health director said on Saturday that the government “will have no problem” ordering police to make arrests and ensure people carrying the virus are isolated.

“Starting now, it’s clear that we will restrict people who aren’t respecting the orders,” Arruda said. “Especially if they have already been advised, contacted, and we have information that they are walking around.”

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec COVID-19 deaths climb to 5, cases rise to 181
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec COVID-19 deaths climb to 5, cases rise to 181

Quebec medical authorities say they give clear directives to people who test positive for COVID-19. Officials said if medical officers get the sense that an infected person might not obey isolation orders, the patient will be monitored more closely.

Quebec biopharmaceutical company gets $7 million for vaccine testing

The provincial government announced on Saturday that it will be providing a $7-million grant to Quebec biopharmaceutical company Medicago to accelerate the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.

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Medicago announced that it had successfully produced a vaccine candidate on March 12.

The company said the government grant will allow it to conduct pre-clinical studies. The clinical studies, which include testing on patients, are set to begin this summer.

Measures for the homeless

The premier announced the government will be looking into ways to help the most vulnerable by providing some financial assistance to shelters and organizations.

On Friday, the City of Montreal announced measures to help protect the city’s homeless community, including sanitary hubs set up around the city and a shelter dedicated to isolating members of the community who are or who may be infected.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home. For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Coronavirus around the world: March 21, 2020
Coronavirus around the world: March 21, 2020
Coronavirus outbreak: A timeline of how COVID-19 spread around world
Coronavirus outbreak: A timeline of how COVID-19 spread around world