Premier François Legault’s daily briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Quebec today focused almost exclusively on the long-term care network in this province, which has become the epicentre of coronavirus infections. He briefly mentioned the Herron residence in Dorval that is now under criminal investigation after 31 patients were found to have died since mid-March, at least five of them of COVID-19. Then he talked at length about staff shortages in residences, and how this has been exacerbated by the virus. He addressed low wages; and suggested the province would be talking with unions to address this. He also spoke about the fact there are not enough students willing to go into this field, largely for the above-mentioned reasons. “It is a huge challenge,” he said, while appealing to Quebecers now out of work to consider re-training as attendants and orderlies to help address this shortage.
As a start, all 40 private residences across the province were inspected this past weekend. Legault reported that the majority were well-run institutions with staff who cared for the residents. A small number will now be monitored. All public and private residences will be inspected starting this week. The Premier also asked that a person in each establishment be designated to contact and create links with families so they are more aware of what is happening within the residences housing their loved ones.
Quicker testing capacity
The Premier moved on to announce that the province had placed an order for 200,000 of the new rapid testing devices for the virus that were approved by Health Canada just today. The coffee-cup size devices are produced by Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience; and can detect the presence of the virus in less than an hour.
Legault also announced changes to the essential services list, which will include residential construction and home renovation of units to be completed by July 31, as well as the necessary supply chain, garages and mechanics, landscaping, nurseries and garden centres, and mining.
Quebec’s Public Health director, Horacio Arruda, was also present for the press briefing. He suggested that Quebecers have done a good job of flattening the curve, and that he was expecting the province would peak this week, around April 18.
No change locally to number of cases
There are now 13,557 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec. The number of deaths from the virus rose by 32 to a total of 360. There was an increase of 711 positive cases in the past 24 hours, with 879 people now in hospital, which is an increase of 55. Of those being treated in hospital, there are 226 in intensive care units, an increase of 9. There are 2,645 people awaiting the results of testing. A total of 1,982 individuals have recovered from the coronavirus in Quebec.
In the Montérégie, there are now 1,433 confirmed cases, and 14 deaths. The numbers have not changed in the Haut-Saint-Laurent or Hemmingford with all municipalities listed as having less than five confirmed cases. The numbers have increased slightly in the surrounding region: Chateauguay now has 65 cases, Vaudreuil-Dorion has 59, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield has 41, Mercier has 28, Beauharnois has 23 and Napierville has 8 positive cases.
Government announces $1,500 per temporary foreign worker
The federal government announced a new $50 million package aimed at helping farmers to ensure all temporary foreign workers are quarantined for 14-days according to protocol. Farmers will receive $1,500 per temporary foreign worker to ensure they are housed apart and according to public health measures in place. The first workers from Mexico have started to arrive in Quebec.
Nearly 6 million people have applied for benefits from the federal government, including 3.5 million for the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB). In a news conference this morning, Conservative Finance Critic, Pierre Poilievre, said that his party is urging Trudeau to get help to small and medium-sized businesses faster. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy is set to roll out in anywhere from two to five weeks and the Conservatives believe this is much too long. They propose that the $40,000 cap on the Emergency Business Accounts in banks be lifted so that businesses could receive money directly from the banks as early as next week. Emergency accounts in banks have already been set up, so this would be a practical solution to pay wages as soon as possible. When the federal wage subsidy kicks in, those funds would then be used to repay the banks.