The Quebec government has confirmed that two more people in the province have died as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, bringing the total number of fatalities to six.
There are 1,339 cases across the province as of Wednesday — up 326 in a single day. There are 78 people who are hospitalized and 35 of them are in intensive care.
“We are in a difficult time, but after this, everything will be OK,” said Premier François Legault.
The illness is also present in at least three seniors residences in the regions of Montreal, the Eastern Townships and Lanaudière.
“In these three residences, all the necessary measures have been taken,” said Legault.
The province has escalated measures over the past two weeks, but the premier stressed that people must continue to do their part during the health crisis and stay home. He described Quebecers as an army.
“We will talk about this for a long time,” Legault said. “Our grandchildren, in 20 years, in 50 years, will remember how the people of Quebec managed, together, to win the battle.
“We will be proud to have won it, and I am convinced that we will win it.”
He called specifically on snowbirds who are returning home from warmer climates to self-isolate for two weeks to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The Canadian government announced on Wednesday that it will be enforcing the Quarantine Act and that Canadians returning from abroad are mandated to self-isolate for 14 days.
However, when asked about the federal order, Legault said the province is hoping to educate returning travellers on the risks of the infection.
“At this step, we want to inform the population. We are not in the step where we have to start giving fines but we have the power to do so,” he said.
‘Be understanding,’ Legault tells landlords
As the health crisis takes hold of the province’s economy, the premier said he understands that many people are suddenly in a precarious financial situation.
The province is urging landlords to be flexible if their tenants cannot pay April’s rent on time.
“I want to make a call today to all the owners to be understanding, there, to be able to wait a few days before receiving the rent for April 1,” said Legault.
“That doesn’t mean that those who are able to pay it don’t have to pay it there, because there are owners who count on it, too, for income, but let’s be understanding.”
Economic shutdown begins
The update comes as non-essential businesses in Quebec are officially closed until April 13 as the province ramps up the fight against the pandemic.
The Legault government’s measure means that only essential services — such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and police departments — will remain physically open over the next three weeks.
Under the plan, restaurants can still provide takeout and delivery, but their dining rooms must be closed.
The province’s liquor and cannabis stores will also remain open during that period, but clients are encouraged to place online orders. A full list of essential services can be found online.
In Quebec, the number of novel coronavirus cases has jumped since the beginning of the week.
The government has ramped up its plan aimed at slowing the virus’ spread, including prolonging provincewide school and daycare closures until May 1.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »