Sarah Rennie and Nadia Geukjian
One day after announcing a return to school for elementary-age students and the re-opening of CPEs and daycare centres across the province, Premier François Legault revealed the first phase in his plan to relaunch the economy. Retail stores not located in shopping malls, construction and civil engineering companies, and manufacturing companies will all be able to open by the end of May.
Legault made this announcement immediately after offering his deepest sympathy to the families of 93 additional individuals who have lost their lives to COVID-19. He also revealed a total of 25,757 cases of the virus have now been confirmed in Quebec, with 1,625 people currently in hospital and 217 of those in intensive care.
The premier once again relied on the imagery of two worlds to defend his plans to open up more businesses: the out-of-control situation still ravaging CHSLDs and seniors’ residences; and the relatively stable situation in the general public, and especially in the regions outside of greater Montreal. Retail stores with a direct access or door will be able to open outside of the greater Montreal region on May 4, with stores in Montreal opening a week later on May 11. All construction and civil engineering companies can open on May 11.
Manufacturing companies can re-open on May 11 with operations employing fewer than 50 employees allowed to operate at full staff, while those above that threshold will be allowed to bring in 50 employees plus half of the remaining balance of their workers. Manufacturing will completely re-open with no restrictions on May 25. Legault stressed that this first phase of relaunching the economy was crucial and that it would be done in conjunction with increased testing for the virus and with strict public health measures in place. He added that if re-opening resulted in uncontrollable outbreaks, all of these sectors are subject to being closed again at the discretion of public health authorities.
Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon suggested that these three sectors alone would allow some 457,000 people to return to work. The Minister was also careful to maintain that those who are able to work from home should continue to do so.
Quebec’s Director of Public Health, Horacio Arruda, was also especially clear in his insistence that the opening of schools and the return to work in these three sectors should in no way be interpreted to mean that social distancing measures can be relaxed. “Continue to act as though everyone you meet has the virus,” Legault said, while calling on Québecers to exercise prudence in the coming weeks.
Cases slowly continue to climb
There are now 2,973 cases in Montérégie, which is an increase of 94 confirmed cases over the last 24 hours. There are now 17 cases in the Haut-Saint-Laurent Local Health Network (LHN), which is an increase of one confirmed case. In the Suroît LHN there are now 147 cases, a 24-hour increase of 3 cases, while the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN is reporting an increase of 8 cases to a total of 292, and the Jardins-Roussillon LHN has 11 new cases for a total of 431.
Feds to focus on testing and tracing
At his daily address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the common guidelines for re-opening the economy on which he and the premiers from across the country have been working. A virtual meeting of Parliament was held today to discuss this, among other things.
“This framework will lay out the things that need to happen before beginning next steps,” Trudeau said, with stopping the spread of COVID-19 at the centre of it all. In order for these guidelines to be carried out, there needs to be enough capacity for testing and tracing of the disease, as well as sufficient personal protective equipment not only for frontline workers but also for businesses opening up. Trudeau said that this week 6 million surgical masks were being shipped out to provinces, and 100,000 face shields, manufactured in Toronto by Bauer, are also on the way.
As an update on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which businesses could apply for as of yesterday, Trudeau said that, so far, 44,000 businesses had applied.