Quebec Premier François Legault struck a cautiously optimistic tone on Monday as the province reported some of its lowest increases in cases and deaths attributable to the novel coronavirus pandemic since March.
The situation is improving in Quebec, but it isn’t time to let our guards down, he added.
“It doesn’t mean the battle is over,” said Legault, noting the importance of physical distancing and wearing masks.
There are 295 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as of Monday. The province’s total number of infections is 51,354 since the health crisis began.
The province recorded 20 more deaths in the past 24 hours, one of the lowest increases since the start of the pandemic. Quebec leads the country in fatalities, with a total of 4,661.
The number of hospitalizations and patients in intensive care are continuing to decline. There are 1,185 Quebecers in hospital, a decrease of 13 from the previous day. As of Monday, there are 163 patients in intensive care — a decrease of eight in the past 24 hours.
Since the pandemic began, 16,597 patients are considered to have recovered.
The Quebec government is continuing with its staggered approach to reopening, according to Legault. Monday marked the reopening of personal care services and courthouses in most parts of the province while daycares resumed operations in Montreal.
Legault also unveiled on Monday a bolstered $400-million budget to help the culture and arts industry. The field has been struggling due to the ongoing health crisis, which has forced the closure of theatres and a ban on gatherings.
“Culture is the soul of Quebecers,” Legault said.
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Culture Minister Nathalie Roy said the funding includes $91.5 million for film and television production, and $71.9 million for cultural businesses and organizations that had to close as part of COVID-19 measures.
Under the plan, the music industry will see $33.5 million and the performing arts will receive $50 million.
Audiovisual production will be allowed to resume on June 8. Quebec is also looking to reopen venues such as theatres and cinemas at a limited capacity in the near future with public health’s blessing, according to Roy.
“We are confident that we will be able to reopen broadcasting sites before Fête nationale,” she said.
However, there is no clarity to the plan, according to Guy Rodgers, the executive director of the Quebec’s English Language Arts Network.
“Its not clear how that money is to be used. To reduce the number of seats, to put up Plexiglas screens, to buy sanitizer? Nor is it clear what the capacity will be. Will they be allowed to open at 25 per cent capacity or 50 per cent capacity?” wondered Rodgers. “Hopefully that information will become available in the coming days but it’s a little disappointing that it wasn’t clearer.”
More orderlies needed to fill positions in long-term care homes
As the health crisis continues to bear down on long-term care homes, Legault is asking people to sign up for paid training to become orderlies.
The Quebec government is launching a campaign to attract 10,000 workers to work in those facilities, which have been grappling with outbreaks and critical staffing shortages.
“We owe that to our elderly,” Legault said.
Legault said bolstering staff will also improve the conditions of workers who are currently on the front lines in long-term care homes.
The training, which is expected to begin in mid-June, will pay students $740 per week. Those who become orderlies will begin with an annual salary of $49,000, according to Legault.
— With files from the Canadian Press