Premier François Legault admitted Monday that he is very worried about the evolving situation in the greater Montreal area, where the number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus has veered out of control. This as young children outside the greater Montreal area, including in the Haut-Saint-Laurent, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and Hemmingford, returned to daycare centres and elementary schools this morning. The construction sector also returned in full force today.
Legault announced last week that schools and daycares as well as retail stores in the greater Montreal area would now only be re-opening on May 25 at the earliest. Today, he suggested that if the conditions for deconfinement were not in place by then, it was not out of the question that schools would not re-open before September. “It’s not a question of changing your mind, it’s a question of going gradually, it’s a question of adapting, of also looking at the evolution of the pandemic in every corner of Quebec,” Legault insisted. “The situation is not the same, depending on whether you are in Montreal or outside of Montreal, so you adapt. In the coming weeks, we will continue to adapt the instructions and make them evolve.”
Legault and the Director of Public Health, Horacio Arruda, were both on the defensive for much of the press conference, as a study by the province’s Institut national de santé publique provided scenarios for the province that suggested the number of cases and deaths in Montreal could spike if confinement and social distancing measures were eased. The report was released last Friday afternoon, which several journalists suggested made it appear as though they were trying to bury the study. Legault argued the study presented scenarios and that their actions to delay the re-opening of schools, daycares and stores would ensure this would not come to pass.
Closing in on 40,000 cases
Provincewide, there are now 38,469 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up 748 over the past 24 hours, with 1,838 of those being treated in hospital, including 193 in intensive care. There are now 3,013 deaths associated with the virus, an increase of 85 from yesterday. In the Montérégie there are 4,731 confirmed cases, including 1,942 individuals now considered to have recovered. There are 220 people in hospital with 20 being treated in intensive care. There have now been 240 deaths in the region. Closer to home, there are 21 confirmed cases in the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent, 84 cases in the MRC des Jardins de Napierville, 263 positive cases in the MRC de Beauharnois-Salaberry, 454 cases in the MRC de Vaudreuil-Soulanges, and 490 in the MRC de Roussillon.
Trudeau introduces bridge financing
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday the federal government would be offering more support to larger businesses. He introduced the large employer emergency financing facility (LEEFF) which covers companies with revenues of $300 million or more. Trudeau was careful to insist this program would be offering bridge loans, not bailouts. The goal is to protect jobs while helping businesses avoid bankruptcy. To qualify, companies must require financing of $60 million or more, and have large numbers of employees in Canada. Businesses receiving this assistance will have to make certain commitments and keep them, including a promise to maintain jobs and investments, abide by collective agreements and their obligations with respect to pensions. Applicants must also disclose their environmental plans, including climate action plans and sustainability goals.