Quebec’s premier issued an impassioned plea to the thousands of health-care workers absent from the province’s health network as the number of deaths and cases of the novel coronavirus pandemic continue to climb.
François Legault said on Thursday that of the 9,500 employees absent from work, about 4,000 were diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. He is asking all workers who are not in quarantine and are able to return to work to do so.
“We need you,” he said during his daily briefing.
The province has enough personal protective equipment and has implemented clear directives to help keep front-line workers safe, he added.
In Quebec, the death toll has risen to 1,243 after 109 new fatalities were reported on Thursday. Legault said the majority of victims lived in long-term care homes.
He said the government is focused on finding extra personnel for those facilities, many of which face outbreaks and staffing shortages.
“Our priority remains finding people for CHSLDs,” he said.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged help earlier in the day following a request from the province for 1,000 soldiers, Legault said the health-care network still needs its thousands of absent workers.
Trudeau, for his part, said on Thursday that bolstering long-term care facilities with the Canadian Armed Forces is a short-term solution. The federal government did not provide more details about the plan.
“Our women and men in uniform will step up with the valour and courage they have always shown,” Trudeau said. “But this is not a long-term solution. In Canada, we shouldn’t have soldiers taking care of seniors.”
The province has 21,838 cases to date. The respiratory illness has led to 1,411 hospitalizations, and there are 207 patients in intensive care.
Two realities in Quebec as premier speaks of herd immunity
As the government prepares to gradually reopen the economy and schools, Legault stressed on Thursday that there are two different realities unfolding in the province.
“In Quebec, we really have two worlds: one with CHSLDs and the other with the rest of society,” he said.
While nursing homes are grappling to contain the virus, Legault said the health crisis is mostly under control in the province.
Legault also spoke of herd immunity — a type of resistance to the disease’s spread within society — as the government looks to progressively send children back to school.
As there is no vaccine available for COVID-19, Legault said it is better for students to return in waves instead of all at once in the fall.
“Unfortunately, we don’t expect to have a solution in September,” he said. “It can take a year or two. So, we will have eventually to return kids to schools.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told Global News on Thursday she was curious to see the government’s plan when it comes to reopening schools.
“I can understand why they’re thinking of doing it,” she said, but added that she hopes the government will take into account the situation in various cities and regions.
“Here in Montreal and the metropolitan area there’s still a lot of cases. We’re dealing with a lot of death.”
As of Thursday, Montreal accounted for 10, 375 of the province’s 21,838 confirmed cases.
Legault stressed the fact that attendance will not be mandatory and that parents can choose to keep their children at home.
— With files from the Canadian Press and Global News’ Annabelle OlivierView link »