For updates on the Quebec government allowing interior gatherings, the reopening of restaurants, Premier Legault’s comments on the recent protests and financial help for small businesses in Montreal, see below.
Quebec’s COVID-19 numbers stayed below the 200-mark on Monday as the province registered six new deaths.
Health authorities say 198 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the provincial total to 53,047.
A total of 4,984 people have died of COVID-19 in Quebec since the pandemic began.
Quebec’s number of new cases have been trending downward, with less than 300 new positive tests a day for the past week.
Hospitalizations crept upward by seven to 979, while the number of people in intensive care declined by seven.
Premier François Legault along with Health Minister Danielle McCann and Public Health Director Horacio Arruda held the daily press conference on Monday in Montreal, which has recorded more than 26,000 cases.
Quebec allows interior gatherings, Montreal restaurants to open on June 22
As cases and deaths continue to decline, Legault said the province is ready to permit small gatherings inside private residences. Gatherings will still have to abide by the rule of maximum ten people from three different addresses.
Restaurants outside Montreal — the COVID-19 outbreak epicentre of the country — are set to open on June 15. Restaurants in Montreal will be allowed to reopen their interior dining room and exterior terrace as of June 22. Bars have yet to be given a reopening date. Officials said some restaurants may be allowed to offer drinks only without a food order.
The reason given for allowing restaurants to reopen and not yet bars is due to the two meter distancing rule — which officials say can be respected in restaurants and is more difficult to respect in bars.
Tasha Morizio, general manager of the Saint-Laurent Boulevard business development association said the news is fantastic for restaurateurs in the city.
“They are finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Morizio said.
Restaurants will however have to implement new COVID-19 measures, like menus broadcast on screens or on the wall to avoid sharing object such as menus. People will equally have to be seated two meters apart.
Legault says Quebec is ready to combat racism
On the heels of Quebec’s second anti police brutality and Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday, Legault said on Monday that he understood why Quebecers were protesting and chose not to prohibit the demonstrations that took place both in Montreal and Quebec City.
He however added that he could not encourage the mass gatherings at protests for health reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, as respecting physical distancing at crowded marches is impossible.
Legault however reiterated his remark from last week that the vast majority of Quebecers are not racist, but racism is present in the province.
While Legault refused to agree that the province has a systemic issue with racism, he said his government is preparing a policy to fight racial discrimination in Quebec.
Help for small businesses in Montreal
The federal and provincial government have pledged $50 million for Montreal’s small businesses struggling due to the pandemic.
The federal government contributed $30 million while the province is injecting $20 million.
The money will be managed by PME MTL, the city’s support network for entrepreneurs and businesses.
The city’s businesses had remained closed until May 25, taking a major financial hit.
“The economic impact of the pandemic is still felt in Quebec’s metropolis, where the reopening of different sectors was delayed due to a higher number of cases of the virus,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s minister of the economy. “Our objective is to guarantee the longevity of businesses and save thousands of jobs.”
The money, which is mainly aimed at downtown businesses, will be distributed in the form of low-interest loans of up to $40,000 as well as grants.
In addition to retail stores, restaurants and the cultural sector will also be eligible for the program.
The new investment is in addition to several other measures the City of Montreal had already put in place, including postponing municipal tax payments and beefing up their loan programs.
–With files from The Canadian Press