Quebec’s premier admitted there will be many more fatalities as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic as he defended his plan on easing restrictions and reopening parts of the province.
François Legault said 98 more Quebecers died on Thursday, including 92 who lived in long-term care homes. The death toll stands at 1,859, accounting for more than half of the fatalities in the country.
Legault, for his part, said nursing homes — which have faced challenges in containing the virus and bolstering staff — will continue to see deaths.
“We will do everything to save the majority but we have to be realistic, but it is certain there will continue to be a lot of deaths,” he said.
There are more than 27,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in Quebec as of Thursday. Legault said about 4,400 of them are located in long-term care facilities.
Over the past week, Legault has maintained that the health crisis is unfolding in seniors residences but that the situation is mostly under control in the rest of society.
Legault has also insisted that despite the rising number of deaths, the health-care system is able to handle cases as the province prepares to gradually reopen the economy and schools.
‘We have to be careful’ in Montreal
However, there is a growing concern over the virus’s progression in Montreal, which accounts for roughly half of Quebec’s cases.
Legault said on Thursday that he knows the “battle hasn’t been won” in the hard-hit area and stressed the importance of Montrealers respecting social-distancing measures.
“If we want to start the deconfinement in Montreal, it’s important to not have gatherings,” said Legault.
Earlier this week, local public health authorities reported there are outbreaks on the island’s northern and eastern ends in Rivière-des-Prairies, Saint-Michel and Montreal North.
Legault admitted the surge in cases in Montreal North is “worrying” and that public health authorities are closely monitoring the situation. The government will also boost testing in the area, he added.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Thursday that aside from increasing testing, the city will be intensifying awareness campaigns and distributing masks to residents in Montreal North.
There have also been outbreaks at several Montreal hospitals, including the Lakeshore General Hospital in the West Island. Some surgeries have also been cancelled at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont and Santa Cabrini hospitals due to an uptick in coronavirus infections and a lack of available beds.
As Quebec reported more than 1,600 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on Thursday, Legault said that the majority of them are in Montreal and that “we have to be careful.”
“It’s not easy,” he said. “And the margin is tighter in Montreal.”
Legault, Plante say delays in reopening Montreal are possible
When it comes to the recovery plan, Legault repeated that the city’s businesses and schools will be the last to reopen — and that he is willing to keep the lockdown in place if necessary.
“If we stop our efforts, and the situation doesn’t improve in Montreal, I won’t hesitate to push back the reopening,” he said. “So I’m counting on you all.”
Plante, for her part, said that easing back on rules isn’t risk-free and that a lot of work remains to be done before Montreal can go back to some normalcy.
“We will be working very hard to bring together all the necessary winning conditions so that it goes well,” she said.
The mayor said reopening parts of the economy, schools and daycares depends on what public health authorities report over the next few weeks.
“If they arrive at the conclusion that we have to re-adjust things, do not worry. I will not hesitate to support that because nothing is more important than the health of Montrealers,” she said.
— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier and the Canadian PressView link »