Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks to reporters during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Friday, April 24, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City.
Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press
Quebec will present its plan to reopen the province next week, but Premier Francois Legault says older, at-risk people will still need to be kept at a safe distance from others, even from loved ones.
Legault has spent the past few days priming Quebecers for the gradual reopening of the economy, but said Friday that the risk of infection to older Quebecers remains high.
Unfortunately, I do not advise people who are over 60 to hug their grandchildren still for a while, Legault said. I know its hard, its sad and we will be able, in the next few weeks, to see each other two meters apart but to hug children (isnt advisable), especially because we want to reopen our schools gradually.
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Legault said his biggest fear in reopening schools is when those children will visit relatives.
We must protect people over 60, 70 years of age, Legault said. There are real risks going as far as death if they catch COVID-19, so its to protect them that we do it.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, the provinces public health director, recognized the sacrifice being asked of older Quebecers. The goal is not to deprive older people from their family members, he explained, but to ensure they have many more years of happy family moments to share.
Its like a natural impulse to take them in our arms, Arruda said about hugging grandparents. But, at the same time, what we want is they can take them in their arms as long as possible.
On Friday, Quebec published a how-to video on homemade masks and said it would begin mailing pamphlets on the subject. Arruda said masks will be recommended in instances where physical distancing isnt possible, including on public transit.
Well test every week to see if we are not going too fast, Legault said. We are not talking about opening next week, we are talking about a plan to reopen over many weeks.
Quebec reported 97 more deaths linked to COVID-19 Friday, bringing the provincial tally to 1,340, with 22,616 confirmed cases of the virus.
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But Legault said the official numbers of people in hospital and in intensive care 1,460 and 227 respectively are inflated because doctors are keeping older patients who have recovered from the virus in hospital rather than returning them to long-term care homes.
Long-term care homes are facing serious COVID-19 outbreaks and they remain heavily understaffed. Legault called on Friday for Quebecers to apply to work in those hard-hit facilities, even if applicants dont have training or experience in caregiving.
Unable to find enough people to meet the staffing needs, Legault said the province will relax the requirements in order to fill the shortages. Chosen applicants will be paid the wages of a service assistant, which is $777 per week.
Legault said he hasnt ruled out the province eventually taking over private long-term care homes and bringing them all under provincial jurisdiction.
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