Quebec Premier François Legault says that “chances are low” that restaurants in designated red zones will reopen by the end of the month and that he is urging more people to work from home, citing concerns about the progression of the novel coronavirus.
“The situation remains worrisome,” he told reporters Thursday, saying that despite a stabilization of new infections, fatalities are high.
There were 20 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, eight of which occurred in the last 24 hours. The health crisis has claimed the lives of 6,094 Quebecers to date.
“When we saw 20 deaths, it’s not just statistics,” said Legault. “It’s real people.”
The province also reported 1,033 new cases, bringing the total to 97,231. More than 82,000 recoveries have been recorded since the health crisis started.
Hospitalizations dropped by 12 to 553 on Thursday. Of them, 101 patients are in intensive care units, an increase of seven from the previous day.
After three weeks of lockdown measures in Montreal and Quebec City, Legault said “chances are low” that restaurants in designated red zones will open after Oct. 28. The alert level included shutting gyms, bars and entertainment venues and banning most indoor and outdoor gatherings outside work settings.
Legault said restaurant owners are not being blamed and keeping dining rooms closed is to reduce the spread of the virus. But authorities are waiting until next week to make a final decision about restrictions, he added.
The premier also stressed that the public needs to continue limiting their social contacts and to work from home if possible. Legault said he is concerned because the number of new COVID-19 cases has plateaued, but it’s not decreasing.
“I will be very clear: I need the collaboration of all Quebecers,” Legault said. “I need a collective effort to save our health-care system, to save lives.”
The latest update shows that 26,070 tests were conducted Tuesday. The province has carried out 2,887,226 tests to date.
Quebec looks to speed up screening
The Quebec government also announced Thursday it is changing its screening process in a bid to reduce coronavirus outbreaks and wait times.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said the new system, created by Deloitte, will allow people to book testing online. They will also be able to receive their results by text message.
The tool will help “free up thousands of hours” for health-care professionals to take on clinical tasks instead of administrative tasks, according to the province.
“The chosen solution is the one that best meets Quebec’s screening needs and stands out for its rapidity of deployment, especially since it is already functional and available,” Dubé said in a statement.
The system will also work in conjunction with the government’s online self-assessment tool.
The province is putting $12.4 million toward the initiative for a one-year contract.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »