Quebec’s death toll as a result of the novel coronavirus health crisis spiked to 61 fatalities on Friday, nearly double from the previous day.
Premier François Legault said 25 more Quebecers have died but that the majority of deaths did not occur in the past 24 hours.
“What we want is to minimize the amount of the deaths,” he said. “It’s working but we have to continue.”
The province will release its coronavirus projections on Tuesday, Legault added. The premier said he thinks it’s important to provide that information to the public, which is becoming more clear.
“I want to be sure before giving any figures to the population that it is reliable,” he said.
In Quebec, there are 6,101 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Montreal accounts for nearly half with more than 2,800 infections.
When it comes to medical equipment, Legault said there is more available than earlier in the week when the province sounded the alarm over a looming shortage. There is now enough protective gear to last the next eight days, he said.
After announcing a salary boost for employees in the health-care network, the Quebec government announced a new temporary program for other workers.
Low-income workers in essential services — such as cashiers — will receive an extra $100 per week for a maximum of 16 weeks. The measure is retroactive to March 15.
“We want to give a helping hand to those who get up every morning,” said Labour Minister Jean Boulet.
Helping small businesses
A series of new measures are also being rolled out in Quebec to help small businesses as the pandemic takes a toll on the local economy.
The provincial government announced on Friday it will provide $150 million in temporary emergency funding to municipalities to aid entrepreneurs as they weather the storm.
“Our government wants to help as many businesses as possible get through the crisis,” Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said in a statement.
The initiative will help companies hard hit by COVID-19, with up to $50,000 to stay afloat.
Under the plan, Montreal will receive $40 million, and $10 million will be given to Quebec City. The remaining $100 million will be divided among other municipalities in the province.
Businesses in all industries, including co-operatives and non-profit organizations, are eligible for the funding.
Other financial measures include more flexibility when it comes to repaying loans granted under the province’s local investment funds, which are provided to businesses by municipalities. Entrepreneurs have a six-month respite period amid the pandemic.
The boost comes amid a lockdown in Quebec. Non-essential services — including bars and most retail stores — are physically closed until at least April 13 in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »