No one 'is more deserving,' says Legault, raising wages of 300,000 health-care workers as COVID-19 cases climb
Premier tells police to be 'less tolerant' of those not obeying restrictions
- Quebec has 5,518 cases and 36 deaths attributable to COVID-19. There are 365 people in hospital, including 96 in intensive care.
- Montreal remains the hardest-hit region, with 2,642 cases — a jump of 545 cases since Wednesday.
- More than 500 long-term care facilities in the province have reported at least one confirmed case.
- Travel restrictions have been expanded to include parts of the Laurentians, Lanaudière and Outaouais regions, as well as La Tuque.
- Montreal is bringing in stricter measures, as the number of cases in the city has surpassed 2,000.
Premier Francois Legault is asking police forces across the province to crack down on Quebecers who are ignoring the new rules aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
He said police forces across the province received 7,000 calls Wednesday alone about potential violations of the public health orders that have shut down all non-essential economic activity and banned both public and private gatherings.
But despite these rules, several businesses remain open, and people continue to gather in large groups, Legault said at his daily news conference Thursday in Quebec City.
"If someone still thought this wasn't serious, it's time to wake up," he said.
Quebec now has 5,518 cases and 36 deaths attributable to COVID-19. There are 365 people in hospital, including 96 in intensive care — an 19 per cent increase in hospitalizations from the day before.
Legault reminded Quebecers to stay two metres apart from each other if they must leave their homes. He said police have been authorized to hand out fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 to anyone who violates the rules.
In Montreal, which public health officials consider the epicentre of the outbreak in the province, police will be assigned to monitor activity in the city's big parks, Mayor Valérie Plante said.
The number of new cases on the island jumped by 26 per cent overnight, reaching a total of 2,642.
Outside of Montreal, officers are also enforcing travel restrictions in just about every region in the province, as authorities seek to limit the movement of people to an absolute minimum.
Quebec ready to pay cash for more medical supplies
Legault also used Thursday's news conference to strike a bullish tone as he explained Quebec's efforts to secure enough medical supplies — especially masks and gloves — for health-care workers on the front lines of the outbreak.
With most other countries facing similar shortages, competition is fierce for bulk orders of personal protective equipment. There have been reports recently of the U.S. outbidding and diverting shipments from China destined for other countries.
"We'll play the game," Legault said. "If [suppliers] want cash, we'll pay cash."
Health-care workers have complained about shortages of protective equipment.
"Asking health care workers to be on the front lines of this pandemic without the proper equipment is irresponsible, and shortages must be addressed immediately," the Canadian Medical Association said in a statement.
Earlier this week Legault acknowledged supplies had dwindled and what Quebec had on hand wouldn't last more than a week. He maintained that estimate on Thursday.
Bonuses for health-care workers
As part of its effort to improve working conditions in the health-care system, Quebec announced that nearly 300,000 employees in both the public and private sector will be getting temporary pay increases.
Workers who are in direct contact with the disease — such emergency-room professionals and nurses in coronavirus testing centres — will receive an eight per cent boost in their salaries.
Those working in long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs, will also be among the 69,000 workers to benefit from the eight per cent raise.
There have been coronavirus outbreaks at several hundred CHLDSs across the province. The tasks of patient-care attendants and other staff at those homes have been further complicated by government orders that bar residents from leaving unaccompanied or from receiving visitors.
Another 200,000 people who work in the health-care system but aren't as directly exposed to the disease, such as the nurses who staff the 811 health line, will get a salary increase of four per cent.
And workers in private long-term care homes, many of whom make little more than minimum wage, will get an additional $4 per hour. That measure appears designed to discourage these workers from quitting and staying home, to take advantage of federal financial assistance that's worth $2,000 a month.
The government estimates the measures — which are retroactive to March 13 — will cost around $287 million altogether.
"I don't think there is a group that has ever been more deserving of a pay raise," Legault said.
To date, 204 health-care workers in Quebec have tested positive for COVID-19.