The COVID-19 crisis has now claimed 805 lives in Quebec, with an additional 117 more deaths announced on Saturday. The number of confirmed cases in the province has risen to 17,521.
More than 1,130 people are in hospital with the novel coronavirus, including 258 in intensive care.
Officials say 2,960 people are currently under investigation while more than 3,300 people who previously tested positive for COVID-19 have fully recovered. Over 141,240 tests have come back negative.
Montreal remains the epicentre of the outbreak, counting over 8,000 cases — which accounts for nearly half of the cases in the province.
Quebec premier takes ‘full responsibility’ after situation in nursing homes ‘deteriorated’
On Friday, Premier François Legault said the province’s priority remains protecting seniors in overburdened long-term care facilities.
Legault, who has repeatedly described the situation in long-term care homes as critical, said on Friday that he has spent days and nights asking himself what he could have done differently.
The premier admitted he should have raised the salaries of frontline workers in nursing homes earlier as the province’s coronavirus death toll and case numbers continued to rise.
The shortages of staff for nursing homes predated the health crisis by years.
“I take full responsibility,” he said. “We entered this crisis badly equipped and the situation deteriorated.”
There is a growing lack of workers in overwhelmed centres, he added. More than 1,800 staff members are absent due to illness or because they are unwilling to work for fear of being infected as of Friday, according to Legault.
“We are experiencing a difficult situation in CHSLDS,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, the federal government announced that 125 members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be sent to help affected seniors residences.
As the province fights to contain the spread of COVID-19, doctors have stepped up to staff nursing centres following a plea from Legault for help.
At least 2,000 medical specialists and family physicians have come forward to offer help, according to Legault.
Earlier this week, the Quebec government said it was monitoring at least 40 seniors residences due to a high number of cases.
Has Quebec reached its peak in cases?
Horacio Arruda, the director of Quebec public health, said he believes the province has reached a peak of cases but not necessarily deaths or hospitalizations.
Earlier this month, public health officials in the province issued projections which showed that the peak in Quebec would be around April 18.
Arruda, for his part, said even Montreal — where roughly half of the province’s cases have been reported — is beginning to “slow down” but that it isn’t the case in nursing homes ravaged by the illness.
Quebec weighs easing restrictions in some regions
Legault said he is considering scaling back some of the province’s restrictions in regions outside of the greater Montreal area in the near future.
This could mean permitting non-essential businesses in some regions to open after being closed for nearly a month, he added.
“We are looking to reopen these regions in an intelligent way, in a gradual way,” he said, adding that the province would have to ensure there is no new wave of cases.
However, Legault said there is “no question” of reopening schools. They remain closed until at least May 4.
The sweeping measures implemented by the government will also remain in effect for Montreal
–With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise