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COVID-19 Update – March 30: Businesses to close Sundays, including grocery stores

Quebec Premier François Legault revealed the largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases during his daily address on Monday, March 30, with the official number of positive results jumping by 590 to a total of 3,430 across the province. The number of cases in the Montérégie region rose by 32 cases to a total of 289. There are now 235 individuals hospitalized (an increase of 43), with 78 of those being treated in intensive care (an increase of six). Legault focused on the positive, suggesting that while the overall number of infections continues to rise, there were fewer requiring hospitalization and intensive care. “The health network is under control,” he reassured Quebecers.

Premier Legault’s address focused in large part on the mental health of Quebecers. With this in mind he announced a new measure affecting businesses. For the month of April, all businesses will be required to close on Sundays, apart from restaurants offering take-out, gas stations, pharmacies, and convenience stores. “It is an opportunity for our workers to get some rest,” Legault said. The premier also reminded citizens that there is no shame in accessing help for mental health difficulties during this trying time.

Legault also addressed concerns over shortages of medical equipment and supplies, suggesting that in the short term there are enough gloves, masks, and equipment to meet demand. However, the government is looking into the possibility of sterilizing N-95 masks and reusing them. The government is also currently working with a number of Quebec businesses to produce supplies and equipment.

A total of $133 million was announced to help seniors residences cope with the coronavirus.

New educational tool for parents

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge launched the provincial government’s new web platform for parents looking for general educational, social and physical activities for their children home from school until at least the month of May. The Open School online portal (ecoleouverte.ca) will be updated weekly with new activities and information for pre-school aged students all the way through elementary and secondary grade levels, as well as adult education and students enrolled in vocational training programs. Additional activities will soon be added for students with special needs. The portal is bilingual and very easy to navigate. All activities are there to be used at the discretion of parents. The content is not mandatory and will not be evaluated.

As of April 6, the education ministry will be providing weekly grade-level-specific educational activities to the school boards for distribution to families. School teams will also be organizing additional learning activities for their students to complement those provided by the ministry. According to a press release from the New Frontier School Board, the school teams will also be reaching out to students “who were receiving direct support prior to this COVID-19 shutdown.”

At the moment, all schools must remain closed to the public until April 13. After this time, schools may communicate with parents regarding access to the schools to retrieve items considered essential or vital. Strict health and safety protocols will be in place.

Justin Trudeau’s daily address included a number of clarifications of the previously announced wage subsidy program designed to help employers retain and support their workers. The prime minister clarified that employers who have lost 30% of their revenue would qualify for the program, which will finance up to 75% of employee salaries. This translates to a total of $847 per week for employees earning up to a maximum of $58,000 per year, retroactive to March 15. The program is open to businesses, as well as non-profits and charities. Trudeau implored employers to rehire their employees and issued a stern warning to those who might try to take advantage of the system.

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