Quebec is rolling out new financial measures to help businesses ordered to close in three regions under a partial lockdown to stem the tide of the novel coronavirus.
Premier François Legault and Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon announced Thursday that the government will cover 80 per cent of fixed expenses such as rent and electricity for shuttered bars and restaurants for the month of October.
“We wish to say to all those business owners and their employees that we are thinking of them,” Fitzgibbon said.
The helping hand is expected to pay out the fixed costs for 12,000 businesses for a maximum of $15,000 each, he added. It will set back the government $100 million.
“We are here to support you,” Fitzgibbon said, adding he understands some restaurants and bars are “facing extinction.”
The province is also expected to announce additional financial assistance for the cultural sector Friday.
The financial aid comes as tighter controls begin for a 28-day period in the Greater Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches regions, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Bars, casinos, concert halls, cinemas, museums and libraries are closed in those areas and restaurants are limited to takeout.
Private gatherings are prohibited and people cannot have any visitors from another address at their homes with few exceptions, like caregivers or maintenance workers.
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As parts of the province enter a lockdown Thursday, Quebec topped 75,000 cases after it reported 933 new infections — one of the highest daily tallies in months.
“The situation is critical,” Legault said, adding it’s important for citizens to abide by public health measures.
There are 16 additional deaths linked to COVID-19. The health crisis has killed 5,850 Quebecers to date.
Health authorities say two people died within the last 24 hours. The 14 other deaths occurred throughout the month of September.
The uptick in hospitalizations also continued, with 13 more patients than the previous day. There are 275 people in hospital. Of those patients, there is an increase of three for a total of 46 in intensive care.
The province conducted 33,510 tests on Tuesday.
— With files from the Canadian Press