Quebec Premier François Legault is considering postponing reopening elementary schools, daycares and businesses in Greater Montreal once again, citing concern for the region hard hit by the novel coronavirus.
“In Montreal, the situation is not under control, and it’s very worrying,” Legault said during his Monday briefing.
The province has gradually eased restrictions and reopened elementary schools and daycares in other parts of Quebec even as the death toll reached 3,013 on Monday. The respiratory illness has killed 85 more people since the previous day, and 82 of those fatalities were the Montreal area, according to Legault.
There are 38,469 cases, an increase of 748 from the previous day and roughly half of the infections are in and around the city.
Legault’s comments come on the heels of projections from the province’s public health institute showing that deaths could soar if confinement measures are lifted in Montreal, which is the epicentre of the virus in Canada.
The projections, which were released late last week, show that fatalities attributable to COVID-19 in Montreal could climb to 150 per day by July.
“They say it will be explosive if it (Montreal) opens,” he said. “It just confirms we took the right decision to postpone.”
Last week, Legault delayed the reopening of Montreal-area elementary schools, daycares and retail stores by a week to May 25 amid high infection rates and community outbreaks. However, the date could be pushed back again if conditions don’t improve in what he described as a “fragile” situation.
Legault said on Monday that sobering scenarios laid out by the institute “will never happen.”
Quebec has the highest caseload and leads Canada when it comes to deaths, but Legault said most of the province is doing well — with the exception of Montreal. Testing is being ramped up in the area in hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19.
In response to criticism to over softening restrictions and changing measures, Legault said the province is constantly adapting its plan as the virus’s progression evolves.
“It’s normal that the directives changed,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is the MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau, said on Monday he was concerned for his fellow Quebecers.
“That’s why it is so important that we continue to work with the Quebec government on our shared goal of ensuring that people get through this as best we possibly can, and we will continue to work hand-in-hand with the Quebec government on exactly that,” he said.
When asked about Trudeau’s comments, Legault also said he was worried about Montreal and that is why his government delayed reopening the city.
“I want to say there’s nobody who’s more worried than I am about the Montreal situation,” he said.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »