Premier Francois Legault says Montreal not ready to reopen schools, businesses

MONTREAL — With the COVID-19 situation in Montreal still very fragile, the Quebec government said Thursday that elementary schools in the greater Montreal area will remain closed until late August.

Premier Francois Legault said public health conditions haven’t been met in the area hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, so Montreal daycares will also remain closed until at least June 1. Officials haven’t made a firm decision about what to do with retail businesses, scheduled to reopen May 25.

“We know the situation remains under control outside Montreal, but it remains fragile here,” Legault said. “We’ve concluded that the conditions are not met to reopen elementary schools in the Montreal region.”

Opening up businesses could hinge on Montrealers wearing masks in public — something Legault has been pushing for several days.

“We will still give ourselves a few days to take a decision on retail businesses,” Legault said. “A crucial element that would help us to reopen is for the majority of people to wear a mask in public.”

Schools, daycares and businesses have gradually reopened outside the Montreal area, where the COVID-19 situation is deemed under control by health authorities.

But Montreal accounts for more than 20,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,000 of the province’s reported deaths.

Quebec reported an additional 131 deaths linked to the virus Thursday, bringing the total to 3,351.

The province also announced it has 40,724 confirmed cases, an increase of 793 compared to one day earlier.

The premier was in Montreal on Thursday — the first day of a two-day visit to the province’s COVID-19 epicentre.

He met with Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante ahead of his briefing and will meet with the heads of regional health boards to get a first-hand account of the situation in long-term care homes.

Legault said Quebec is getting closer to its goal of testing 14,000 people daily, having conducted 13,291 tests on Wednesday.

Legault had expressed frustration earlier this week that the number of tests hadn’t been ramped up quickly enough.

Staffing is getting better in the health-care network with more absent workers coming back after falling ill or being in quarantine, Legault said.

The premier said long-term care homes in Quebec will continue to receive the help of Canadian Armed Forces members, with the military mission being extended until at least June 12.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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