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‘Quebec pays its share for the army’: Legault pushes for soldiers to stay in long-term care homes

WATCH: Quebec premier provides update on COVID-19 measures

As Quebec looks to recruit more workers and orderlies to work in its beleaguered long-term care network, Premier François Legault wants the military to stay and help in facilities hit hard by the novel coronavirus crisis.

“Quebec pays its share for the army,” he said during his daily briefing on the province’s response to COVID-19 on Thursday.

“I understand that there are other priorities, but it seems to me that the priority, for the moment, is to take care of our people in CHSLDs.”

The premier has specifically asked to have soldiers remain in nursing homes affected by the virus until Sept. 15 while the province hires and trains thousands more workers to take over when the troops leave.

READ MORE: Quebec nurses, health-care workers protest working conditions, lack of vacations

Legault said he will speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his request, adding the Ontario government also wants the military to continue helping in its own facilities. However, while Trudeau has repeated his support for provinces during the crisis, he has said that military aid is a short-term solution to a bigger problem.

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The demand, which was made Wednesday, comes on the heels of a report by the Canadian Armed Forces into Quebec’s long-term care facilities. The report pointed to major challenges, including critical staffing shortages.

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Long-term care homes continue to be a hot spot for the virus in Quebec, which is the epicentre of the virus’s outbreak in the country. They accounted for 70 of the 74 new deaths recorded on Thursday.

“The situation remains fragile in seniors homes,” said Legault. “We need a lot more trained workers.”

The province is also looking to hire 550 orderlies from abroad to work in CHSLDs as part of a pilot program from the immigration ministry.

Quebec remains the province hardest hit by the health crisis, which recorded an additional 563 cases on Thursday for a total of 49,702. The disease has been linked to 4,302 deaths since the pandemic began.

Courthouses to reopen

As Quebec continues to lift restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, Justice Minister Sonia LeBel announced the next phase of the government’s recovery plan on Thursday during the daily briefing.

Courthouses and other tribunals will gradually reopen beginning next Monday after being shut down for more than two months.

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The justice system will operate a bit differently, however, to ensure physical-distancing measures.

LeBel explained there will be fewer people in courthouses, access will be limited to rooms and plexiglass will be installed to protect clerks and judges.

Courts will also move towards having more remote audiences, with about 130 virtual courtrooms having been set up. She noted not all cases will but heard online, but some could be a good fit.

The pandemic has sped up the digital transformation of the justice system, according to LeBel.

“The system will not go back to the way it was,” she said, without offering specifics.

With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and the Canadian Press