Deputy Prime Minister Geneviève Guilbault, who replaced Prime Minister François Legault on Wednesday, admitted that she understood that teachers and educators were feeling stressed about returning to work, but said that people under the age of 70 were at minimal risk to their health.
“Public health officials tell us that before the age of 70, it is possible to return to work without significant risk,” she said. “All Quebec employers are asked to take this into account.”
Guilbault’s message comes after Legault and provincial authorities previously warned people over the age of 60 that they are at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
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She said that if workers comply with public health directives, such as adhering to social distancing measures, they “can return to work without worrying too much.”
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The provincial government is also investing $ 31 million in a mental health plan to help Quebecers during the pandemic. Guilbault urged the public to seek help if they feel stressed or sick.
“We are there for you,” she said.
Quebec remains the province hardest hit by COVID-19. The pandemic has caused outbreaks in Montreal and in long-term care homes, which continue to face staff shortages.
The number of cases continues to increase daily by the hundreds. To date, there are over 34,000 cases in the province, accounting for more than half of the country’s infections.
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Respiratory disease killed 112 more Quebecers on Wednesday. The death toll in the province is 2,510.
The government is also adjusting its plan for child care centers that will reopen next week outside of Greater Montreal.
Guilbault said they would run 30% at first, which means there might not be enough space for all the children. It is important to go slowly, she added.
“We are well aware that this can complicate things for some parents,” she said, asking for their understanding.
Montreal patients transferred elsewhere
Montreal – which continues to face epidemics – and surrounding areas remain severely affected by the virus and are of concern to provincial authorities.
As of Wednesday, the city accounts for about half of the province’s cases with 17,442 infections and authorities say hospital rates are high.
“The situation in Montreal is very different from the rest of Quebec,” said Health Minister Danielle McCann.
As a result, patients from city hospitals were transferred to different regions – including the north and south shores of Montreal. They were even moved to Trois-Rivières.
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McCann said the transfers “ease the pressure” on hospitals in Montreal, where COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported in recent weeks, but precautions have been taken to curb the spread.
“I think that for the other regions, all the precautions are taken, there is no risk,” she said.
Horacio Arruda, the director of public health for Quebec, said that the situation in Montreal remains worrying.
The plan to reopen daycares and schools in the greater Montreal area on May 19 has not changed, but Arruda said authorities will assess the figures over the next week.
“I have the impression that our authorities will have to take a decision, in particular to allow people to prepare,” he said.
Medical outings allowed for certain prisoners
Quebec’s prison system faces a challenge when it comes to containing the spread of the virus, said Guilbault. COVID-19 has been reported in provincial jails.
Guilbault announced on Wednesday that the government would grant medical visits to certain detainees.
However, she stressed that only a limited group of detainees would be allowed to do so.
“No detainee who has committed a violent crime will be released from prison,” she said.
– With files from Raquel Fletcher of Global News and the Canadian Press
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