A total of 18 Quebecers diagnosed with COVID-19 have died, Premier François Legault said Friday.
The province is reporting 2,021 confirmed cases, with 141 people in hospital, including 50 people in intensive care.
Legault acknowledged Quebec has more cases than other provinces, explaining that schools in the province went on March break at “the worst possible time.”
“Right before we told people to stop travelling, we had many people who went on vacation,” he said.
The premier also promised that no one who is working now and earning minimum wage will take home less than $2,000 monthly.
He said Quebec will top up those wage earners’ salaries, so that they won’t be in a position where they would get more money simply staying home, through other government initiatives announced to help those confined to their homes to help prevent the further spread of the virus.
The details still have to be worked out, but Legault committed to getting it done.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “We will take care of you.”
Stop travelling between regions, officials ask
The highest number of cases in the province are in Montreal and the Eastern Townships. Legault said people who live in those regions should stay home, and people who don’t live there shouldn’t visit.
Legault said the province is in talks with Montreal to determine whether a public health crisis should be declared on the island.
“There’s no plan, short term, to close Montreal. But we evaluate the facts every morning, and we’ll take the decisions that are needed,” the premier said.
When asked whether there needs to be a specific number of cases before a region is sealed off, Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, said that magic number doesn’t exist.
That decision, he said, would be based in part on an analysis of how many cases have been transmitted in the community, as opposed to those linked directly to returning travellers.
Don’t spend the weekend at your chalet: Laurentian mayors
The mayors of Mont-Tremblant and nearby municipalities are asking people to stay home so that they don’t see the same level of activity in the Laurentians that they did last weekend.
They are asking Montrealers feeling city-bound and people from neighbouring provinces to stay home. For those with a chalet in the area, local officials are asking them to choose one residence to live in for the duration of the outbreak.
That’s in line with the public health directive to all Quebecers to avoid travelling, including to different regions of the province.
“This is not a good time for you to visit us. The orders from the government have been clear, namely, to avoid travel between regions or provinces. For the sake of everyone’s health, please stay home,” said Mont-Tremblant Mayor Luc Brisebois in a statement.
Regional bus service cancelled
As of midnight Saturday, bus company Orléans Express will temporarily suspend its long-distance bus service throughout its network in an effort to curb travel between regions and slow the spread of the virus.
Its parent company, Keolis Canada, says it’s seen a huge drop in ridership because of COVID-19.
The company says it realizes its services are essential for some Quebecers, especially in some regions, and it’s in discussions with its partners to try and reduce any negative impact.
All tickets that have already been purchased can be changed or reimbursed.
Firefighters fall ill
Five Montreal firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19.
The firefighters had recently worked at stations in Westmount, Ahuntsic and Parc-Extension.
They are all now in self-isolation, as are 35 other firefighters who were in contact with them.
Firefighters have reached an agreement with the city to work 24-hour shifts starting Monday.
Montreal’s Village pedestrian zone delayed
The pedestrian zone on Ste-Catherine Street is the latest spring and summer tourist attraction on hold, even as the warmer weather arrives.
Village Montreal announced Friday the main thoroughfare in the Gay Village won’t be closed to vehicular traffic until further notice.
The installation commissioned to replace the canopy of rainbow balls that hung over the street for many years has also been delayed until 2021.
Hydro-Québec warns against scams
Hydro-Québec says some clients are being sent fraudulent text messages that claim to be from the utility. The text messages contain a link which users should not click on, offering them a rebate on hydro-electricity bills.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians about a similar scam attempting to defraud those hoping to get money from the government’s emergency relief program.
Church bells to ring on Sundays
Catholic churches in Montreal will ring their bells for 10 minutes on Sundays until Easter, Archbishop Christian Lépine said.
The bells will ring to show support for front-line health-care workers and to comfort the public. The province has banned gatherings of two or more people, including religious services.