Quebec has reached a grim milestone as it recorded 1,041 deaths and more than 20,000 cases of the novel coronavirus crisis on Tuesday.
“I want to offer my condolences to the loved ones and the families of the victims,” he said.
The majority of deaths — 850 — to date have originated in the province’s long-term care homes, according to Legault. He said there are 80 such facilities where the spread of the virus is not under control.
“Our biggest challenge remains in residences for seniors,” he said.
In the past week, Legault has repeatedly appealed to medical specialists, family physicians and other health-care professionals to help in nursing homes. Many seniors residences are grappling with outbreaks and staffing shortages.
The Canadian Armed Forces have also been deployed to residences after the provincial government formally requested assistance.
The reinforcements are helping and the province is continuing to shift workers to affected homes, according to Legault.
“The situation is getting more and more under control,” he said.
The province, which now has 20,126 confirmed cases, saw its number of patients in intensive care rise to 201 on Tuesday. The respiratory illness has led to 1,224 hospitalizations.
Montreal remains the hardest hit region in the province with 9,348 cases — roughly half of the total number of infections in Quebec. The Montérégie region recorded 2,511 cases, and Laval has 2,199 cases.
Quebec will reopen economy, schools slowly
As Quebec has all but slowed to a crawl for the last five weeks, Legault said he envisions a progressive return for the economy in the coming weeks and months as the “situation is getting more and more under control.”
“Of course, we still need some time to be sure that the pandemic is under control before reopening the economy and the schools,” he said, adding that the province’s public health director needs to give the green light.
One of the scenarios that the government is considering is permitting businesses and schools to slowly resume in regions that are not hard hit by COVID-19.
However, Legault noted they are looking at several scenarios in the next few days and that a decision has not yet been made.
When it comes to schools, the premier said he didn’t think the academic year would be extended into July and August, but he did say it would not be a good idea for students to return all at once in September.
“Is it possible to reopen schools for a few weeks between now and the end of June? That’s possible,” he said. “But summer is not something we’re considering.”
As part of sweeping measures to slow the spread of the virus, non-essential services, schools and daycares were shuttered in mid March.
Essential service workers urged to register online ahead of incentive program
Revenu Quebec, which oversees taxes in the province, is asking workers in essential services who will receive a temporary salary boost to start registering for the program.
The government is giving $100 more per week for essential service workers in low-wage jobs — such as grocery store cashiers — retroactive to March 15.
The incentive program, which comes into effect on May 19, is expected to help more than 600,000 full- and part-time employees.
In order to avoid overburdening customer service at Revenu Quebec and cause delays in receiving payment, the government body is urging workers to register on its website.
— With files from the Canadian Press