The provincial government announced that starting this weekend, businesses will close on Sundays to give essential service providers an opportunity to rest and recharge. There are, of course, exceptions. Gas stations, pharmacies, convenience stores and restaurants providing takeout will remain open, Legault explained, during yesterday’s COVID-19 briefing. The motivation for the Sunday closures, according to Legault, is mainly to give large grocery stores and other businesses the opportunity to restock and give workers a break.
When asked if closing businesses on Sundays could lead to higher volumes of people going out to shop during the week, Legault said one day would likely not cause a big increase in traffic during the week.
The number of confirmed cases in Quebec has climbed to 3,430, an increase of 590 from the day before.
Of those, 329 are in the Estrie region.
Legault said there have been three new deaths, bringing the total in the province to 25. There are currently 235 people hospitalized because of COVID-19, 43 new in the past 24 hours. Legault pointed out that there were only six new patients admitted into intensive care, bringing the total in Quebec to 78, good news according to the Premier.
Legault began yesterday’s briefing saying the confinement and social distancing is likely beginning to take a toll on mental health.
“If you don’t feel well, don’t be shy,” Legault commented, explaining that a person’s mental health is as important as their physical health. He added that it is normal in a situation like this to feel anxious and stressed.
Legault reiterated the importance of using protective equipment (masks, gowns, gloves) sparingly. “If it’s not necessary, don’t use it. Keep it for those who need it most,” Legault said. The premier said for the moment the province has what it needs in terms of protective equipment, but is counting on orders to suppliers being honoured because in the coming weeks more will be needed. Legault said the province is in discussion with several Quebec businesses about the possibility of modifying production lines to make protective gear here in the province as a plan b. He added that health officials are looking at ways some equipment, like the N-95 protective masks, could be cleaned and disinfected and reused.
A funding package of $133 million has been put together for seniors’ residences to help protect seniors and personnel working in the residences for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
During the press briefing reporters asked if the original deadlines of April 13 for the closure of non-essential businesses and May 1 for schools were realistic or if the public should brace for an extended confinement period.
“Each day we reevaluate the situation,” Legault said. Another reporter asked about surgeries scheduled in provincial health institutions that are still delayed. According to Health and Social Services Minister Danielle McCann, the decision wasn’t made lightly. “This is temporary, McCann said. “We have to free up beds, and free up staff,” the minister said, explaining that a surgery in a hospital involves recuperation, care and the use of protective equipment, currently at a premium.
According to McCann, the surgeries that have been delayed were decided upon by a committee of professionals, and the delays do not put the patient at risk. A surgery in hospital involves an average of four days of care, Legault pointed out. Rationing resources now is a priority, he explained, suggesting that the peak of infection could be reached in the coming weeks. One reporter pointed out that the situation across the border seems to be getting worse and wondered how that could affect food supply chains coming from the U.S. Legault said food coming from the states is a bigger issue in the winter. In the summer, the province produces more. He said a priority will be to help agricultural producers, and encourage consumers to buy more local products.
Published in the Tuesday, March 31 edition of The Record.