Quebec’s premier says the province has the novel coronavirus pandemic under control but that beleaguered long-term care homes remain at the heart of the health crisis.
“We are experiencing two different worlds,” said François Legault during his daily briefing on Friday.
In Quebec, there are 22,616 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, to date. It is an increase of 768 from the previous day.
There have been 97 more deaths, bringing the province’s death toll to 1,340. The majority of Quebec’s deaths have originated in nursing homes.
The government’s focus remains protecting seniors and bolstering staffing in long-term care centres, where the situation is critical, according to Legault.
After pleading for help from the military and health-care professionals to assist in residences, the province urged all people who are able to work full-time to sign up online. They are eligible for $21.28 per hour.
“I hope it will draw a lot more people, thousands of people,” said Health Minister Danielle McCann. “At the beginning, we needed expertise. Now, we need people.”
As the crisis continues to unfold, Legault said that one of the lessons he has learned is that seniors’ homes need a revamp. He has also asked for the construction of new centres to be accelerated.
Legault noted that facilities need more space, additional health-care workers and possibly dropping the term “CHSLD” altogether, which he described as “bureaucratic.”
“In the next few months, you will see that I want to fix the situation,” he said.
The premier also didn’t exclude placing privately run residences under the care of the government, but he said he will be taking a deeper look into the situation.
However, Legault also said the COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities are happening in other countries — but that it doesn’t excuse the emergency transpiring in Quebec’s nursing homes.
“It’s like setting fire to a haystack,” he said, referring to the virus’s progression in seniors’ residences.
Quebec can slow virus, not stop it completely
As the government prepares to present its plan to allow businesses and schools to progressively reopen, Legault said it’s important that the province moves slowly.
“As I said yesterday, we won’t reopen next week, but we will announce the timeline so everyone can prepare themselves,” Legault said.
While the details of the plan will only be revealed next week, Legault added that the province will “test every week” to ensure it isn’t moving too quickly.
Legault added that while widespread restrictions and closures have slowed the rate of contagion in most of the province, the virus will still exist until there is a treatment.
“We needed for a certain period of time to slow the spread of the virus,” he said. “But we know very well we won’t have a vaccine for a year or two probably, so we cannot ask people to stay inside for a year or two.”
However, Legault noted that Quebecers need to continue abiding by physical-distancing measures that were implemented in March.
“We are winning the battle against the first wave of contagion but the war against the virus is only beginning,” he said. “We must continue our efforts.”
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »