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Quebec comes to Cirque du Soleil’s rescue amid coronavirus pandemic

Cirque du Soleil, creator of many of the most popular shows in Las Vegas, said in March that it is temporarily suspending its productions in Las Vegas as well as around the world because of the new coronavirus outbreak. Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

Quebec is giving a helping hand to Cirque du Soleil to help the company weather financial hardships spurred by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Economic Development Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon announced on Tuesday that the government is vowing to loan up to $275 million to the embattled circus.

“Cirque taxes will continue to be paid in Quebec and Canada,” he said. “The salaries of the directors will be very reasonable.”

Under the plan, the province will become a creditor of the company under an agreement in principle between Investissement Quebec and Cirque’s three main shareholders — Texas-based TPG Capital, Chinese firm Fosun and the Caisse de depot et placement.

READ MORE: Quebec ombudsperson to investigate coronavirus crisis response in seniors residences

Fitzgibbon said the celebrated circus company’s headquarters will remain in the province and its seniors executives will also have to reside in Quebec.

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The circus owes more than $1.25 billion to creditors and has been shut down since the start of the health crisis. The pandemic forced the company to cancel its 44 shows in March and lay off most of its staff.

Earlier this week, founder Guy Laliberté said he wanted to buy back the company he created more than 35 years ago.

The announcement comes as Quebec reported 70 new deaths attributable to COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total to 4,139 — which accounts for more than half of the country’s fatalities since the pandemic began.

The province also has the highest caseload at 48,598 as the number of infections continues to rise by hundreds every day. On Tuesday, it recorded 614 new cases from the previous day.

Shopping centres will reopen with new rules

As Quebec moves forward with its recovery plan, shopping centres outside of the Greater Montreal area will reopen on June 1.

Fitzgibbon laid out the details for malls, which will be subject to physical-distancing measures and public health recommendations.

As part of the plan, a limited amount of clients will be allowed in stores and customers must maintain two metres apart. They are also asked to wear masks, though they are not obligatory.

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“We are counting on, of course, on everyone’s collaboration for an important stage of deconfinement,” said Fitzgibbon. “And it happens in compliance with health guidelines because ultimately, the important thing remains health, the protection of workers and, of course, the whole population.”

READ MORE: Montrealers line up to shop as retail stores reopen after coronavirus lockdown

Partitions will be installed at the cash for stores and restaurants, as well as at information centres in shopping centres.

When it comes to restaurants, only take-out will be permitted. Food courts will remain off limits to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The reopening of shopping malls comes as retail stores across the province are permitted to operate, though also under restrictions. Hairdressers, estheticians and other personal care providers outside of Montreal will also open next week.

With files from the Canadian Press