MONTREAL — In an attempt to give frontline retail workers a break during the COVID-19 pandemic, Quebec Premier Francois Legault on Monday ordered most of the stores still allowed to operate to close on Sundays during the month of April.
The premier gave his newest directive as the province reported its biggest one-day spike in confirmed COVID cases — 590 positive tests — bringing the provincial total to 3,430. Health authorities also confirmed three additional deaths compared with the day prior, for a total of 25.
But despite the big jump in confirmed cases, Legault said the statistics also reveal some good news.
Out of 235 people in hospital, 78 of them are in intensive care, he said. "That's an increase of only six," Legault said, referring patients in the ICU. "It's the good news of the day ... It means our health network is under control. And we have a good amount of flexibility for the next steps."
Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, said Quebecers should focus on the number of severe cases as opposed to the total number of people infected with COVID-19 in the province.
"We are testing a lot," he told reporters. "Even if we get a lot of cases, they're not ending up in hospital and intensive care, so it's probably related to our quantity of tests and our test strategy," Arruda said.
Some 6,200 people are awaiting test results while more than 56,000 tests have come back negative.
Legault said he didn't think closing big grocery stores for one day a week would put a strain on them during the six other days that they are open.
Quebec only permits businesses the province deems "essential" to remain open during the pandemic. Legault ordered all non-essential businesses closed until April 13. Shopping centres won't open their doors until May 1.
"It will be an opportunity for our workers to get some rest," Legault said. The only stores that can remain open seven days a week are convenience stores, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurant take-out counters.
Legault also called on people to leave masks and other protective equipment for those who need them the most.
Apart from rationing protective equipment, the province is looking at ways to wash and reuse them.
Health Minister Danielle McCann called for judicious use of masks as the province tries to procure more amid a world shortage. She has said there have been incidents of thefts at hospitals.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press