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COVID-19 in Quebec: Province eases restrictions even as more Montreal hospitals face outbreaks

The latest:

  • Quebec has 26,594 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,761 people have died. That’s an increase of 79 deaths.
  • There are 1,648 people in hospital, including 222 in intensive care. Here’s a guide to the numbers.
  • Roadblocks leading to some Quebec regions will be removed in early May, but non-essential travel is discouraged. 
  • Manufacturers, construction sites and some retail stores will be allowed to open in early May. 
  • Daycare and elementary school open May 11 in most of the province, and a week later in the Montreal area.
  • Province extends health emergency status until May6

The Legault government defended its decision to ease restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even as the number of deaths continued to rise in Quebec and as more Montreal hospitals faced outbreaks and full emergency rooms.

At least six Montreal hospitals have reported outbreaks among patients and staff, including Lakeshore, Verdun, Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Santa-Cabrini, Sacré-Coeur and the Montreal General. 

This week, Maisonneuve-Rosemont cancelled all surgeries requiring hospitalization, after its facilities were overwhelmed by the disease and its emergency room reached above 110 per cent capacity.

Eight out of the hospital’s main 12 wards are dealing with outbreaks. The hospital had to stop accepting patients for a period of 24 hours.

Health Minister Danielle McCann acknowledged Wednesday “we still haven’t won the battle” in the province’s long-term care homes, which have been beset by deadly outbreaks and serious staff shortages. 

She also called the outbreaks in Montreal hospitals and the number of cases in the city overall “worrying,” but said her ministry felt comfortable with easing measures because the health-care system still has room to treat people.

Graphs shown by Premier François Legault earlier this week displayed two infection-rate curves: one for long-term care homes and one for the rest of the population. The curve for long-term care homes was significantly higher than the other, and Legault explained that’s why he feels comfortable letting thousands go back to work.

On Wednesday, the province extended its health emergency status until May 6.

Several Quebec regions are seeing fewer infections every day and will see roadblocks leading to several of them removed in the coming week. The government is still discouraging non-essential travel. Businesses, elementary schools and daycares will also be allowed to open earlier in the regions. 

Could deconfinement be pushed back in Montreal?

But the Montreal area continues to far outpace other regions in the number of cases of the virus, pegged Wednesday at 12,811 of 26,594, as well as in the number of deaths caused by it — 1,078 of 1,761.

The reopening of schools and some sectors of the economy, including manufacturers, construction sites and retail stores with outdoor entrances, is set to take place a week later than the rest of the province.

The city has also been struggling to contain an outbreak in one of the city’s poorest boroughs, Montréal-Nord

When asked whether he would reconsider deconfining Montreal in May, Quebec’s director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said wasn’t excluding the possibility but wouldn’t say exactly what it would take for him to delay it further. 

“It’s all going to depend on the data that comes out of the hot zones in Montreal, which we will be investigating intensively in the next few days,” Arruda said.

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