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Quebec still falls short of testing targets amid novel coronavirus crisis

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec won’t make wearing a mask mandatory at this time' Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec won’t make wearing a mask mandatory at this time
Quebec’s Premier François Legault said on Wednesday the he “strongly recommends” people wear a mask when going out, however his government is not making it mandatory under the law because they don’t have enough quantities of masks to distribute to the public, and because of the legal aspect of providing same good quality of protective masks for all Quebecers, Legault explained – May 13, 2020

Quebec, the province hardest hit by novel coronavirus pandemic, continues to fall short of its target of issuing 14,000 tests per day.

Premier François Legault said on Wednesday during his briefing that the province currently has the capability of administering about 9,000 tests on a daily basis

“I don’t accept this,” he said. “I am not happy.”

Legault said he is personally keeping a close eye on the situation and hopes to meet the testing targets in the next few days.

“It means better organizing and it also means better informing the population in different neighbourhoods, among others, in Montreal, of the availability of tests,” he said.

READ MORE: Vast majority of Quebecers think masks should be mandatory, poll shows

Last week, Quebec’s director of public health confirmed the province had yet to reach its goal while announcing ramping up screening in hot spots in Montreal. Dr. Horacio Arruda said he had learned from teams on the ground that people who tested positive weren’t following up with public health officials.

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As the province looks to meet its targets, Arruda said on Wednesday that testing will also be ramped up in long-term care centres, which have been brutally hit by the virus. At least 48,000 workers will be tested next month, he added.

“When there is a case, there is testing. But sometimes the testing is only one floor or hot zones, not everywhere,” he said. “But now, there is going to be a big operation in CHSLDs.”

READ MORE: Opposition questions Quebec government COVID-19 relaunch plan as legislature sits anew

The premier is also once again encouraging people to wear masks when they leave the house. Legault reiterated that they will not be mandatory since not enough masks are available.

He said he hopes Quebecers will make a habit of a wearing them — especially in situations where maintaining a two-metre distance is difficult.

“If a majority of people do so, it will help us get back to a more normal life,” he said.

Quebec, which leads the country, has 39,931 COVID-19 cases to date as the province continues to see its number of infections rise by hundreds each day. Montreal remains the epicentre of the virus’s outbreak in the country with nearly 20,000 cases.

The respiratory illness has killed 3,220 people as of Wednesday and more than 2,000 of the victims are from Montreal.

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Long-term care home still hard hit by the virus

A major concern that was brought up at the provincial legislature’s first in-person sitting on Wednesday was the ongoing situation in Quebec’s beleaguered nursing homes.

The premier confirmed that 5,000 people who are living in residences or long-term care homes have COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

Legault confirmed that at least 103 CHSLDs have at least one infected resident, but the data on the province’s facilities has not been updated online in more than a week.

“The only reason why we’re not giving, since a week, the data per residence, it’s because we don’t have the number of people living in those residences,” said Legault.

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Legault said he expects to have that information by Thursday.

The virus’s progression has been brutal in long-term care homes in Quebec, where many of the province’s fatalities originated.

Some sports allowed to resume

As the province softens restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, some sports will be permitted beginning next week.

Under the plan, non-contact and individual sports that take place outside, such as golf and tennis, will be allowed to resume as of May 20 in all regions.

“I think it will do a lot of people good,” said Legault.

Provincial parks will also be allowed to reopen gradually as of that date, but they will only be open for day-time activities.

Some two-person activities will also be allowed, including cycling, hiking and running.

READ MORE: Quebec to permit some non-contact sports as of May 20

— With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher and the Canadian Press

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