'We are all concerned about Montreal,' Legault says, signalling further delays possible

Premier François Legault says he is concerned about the situation in Montreal and raised the possibility that reopening schools and businesses could be pushed back even later than May 25.

Meanwhile, elementary schools and daycares reopened Monday in the rest of Quebec

Montreal has been hit hard by the pandemic and now the provincial government says the city may not be ready to reopen schools and businesses. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada )

The latest:

  • Quebec has 38,469 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 3,013 people have died, an increase of 85 from Sunday.
  • There are 1,838 people in hospital (an increase of seven) and 193 people in intensive care (a decrease of six). Here's a guide to the numbers.
  • Elementary schools and daycares outside the greater Montreal area reopen today.
  • The Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Outaouais, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and parts of the Mauricie have travel restrictions lifted today. Here's a guide to navigating the travel restrictions.
  • The urban agglomeration of Montreal has renewed its state of emergency until May 16. It's been in effect since March 27. 

Premier François Legault says he is concerned about the situation in Montreal and raised the possibility that reopening schools and businesses could be pushed back even later than May 25. 

At a news conference on Monday, Legault said that if the government lifted confinement measures under the current conditions, the outbreak would likely worsen. 

While regions outside the greater Montreal area are reopening, the provincial government has already twice delayed easing restrictions in and around the big city.

"We are all concerned about Montreal, me above all," Legault said.

"If the situation in Montreal is not under control, we will delay the reopening of businesses, schools and daycare centres," he added.

'Outside of the greater Montreal area, the situation is under control. However, the situation in Montreal is not under control, and is worrisome,' Premier François Legault said Monday. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

On Friday, Quebec's public health research institute (INSPQ) published projections that warned the greater Montreal area could see a sharp increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths if confinement measures are lifted.

It found that Montreal could see as many as 150 deaths per day by July with the current deconfinement plan, without taking long-term care homes into account.

The projections also estimated that the easing of confinement measures in Quebec's outlying regions was unlikely to result in a significant increase in deaths or hospitalizations.

"Outside of the greater Montreal area, the situation is under control," Legault said Monday. "However, the situation in Montreal is not under control, and is worrisome."

The latest numbers from Montreal's public health authority show 19,492 confirmed cases and 1,919 deaths as of May 10. Nearly 64 per cent of the province's COVID-19 deaths have been in Montreal. 

Despite the stark numbers in the Montreal area, the construction industry fully reopened across the province on Monday. Factories were also allowed to reopen, though they must operate with reduced staffing until May 25.

Quebec testing more, Legault says

Legault repeated explanations given before about why the province, and Montreal in particular, is the epicentre of the outbreak in Canada.

He singled out the difficult living and working conditions in CHSLDs, saying there was a need to increase wages for patient attendants and other workers in the system. 

"I take my share of the responsibility," Legault said. "We were badly prepared in our long-term care centres and that is one of the reasons we have more deaths."

He also said the government will continue to increase testing, noting that last week the province was testing around 10,000 people daily, up from 6,000 previously.

Quebec's public health director, Horacio Arruda, said the government is currently focusing its testing efforts on areas that have high transmission rates and for people who have symptoms of the virus. 

Once the government has more testing capacity, it will focus to test asymptomatic people who have been in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive, Arruda said.

He also said the province will expand its contact tracing efforts in the worst hit parts of Montreal, including Montreal's Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce and Montreal North. 

Ste-Catherine Street goes pedestrian 

Two Montreal universities — McGill and Université de Montréal — said a majority of their courses will be conducted remotely in the fall. 

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also announced Monday that Ste-Catherine Street will be turned into a pedestrian walkway between St-Hubert Street and Papineau Avenue, and between De Bleury Street and St-Laurent Boulevard, beginning May 18.

School crossing guard Lucie Hebert helping students Monday morning cross the street near Primerose elementary school in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

The pedestrian walkway will provide enough space for people to respect social distancing rules while also allowing them "to breathe a little, to move around and enjoy the city," Plante said in a statement. 

Montreal plans to limit traffic and parking on several other streets as well, in order to make it easier to walk and cycle.

Classes resume outside Montreal

Monday is back to school for elementary school students outside of the greater Montreal area, but it looks very different from when they left nearly two months ago.

Many schools have separate entrances for each class and markings on the sidewalks and floors to show students where they should stand in order to respect a two-metre distance from one another.

Primary school teacher Céline Guérin explains the two-metre distancing rule to her students at Marie-Derome school in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. on Monday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Some students will also eat their lunch at their desks, and take turns going outside for recess to minimize contact with other groups.

But some remain concerned the move is too early, in particular for daycares that are lacking staff and protective equipment.

Travel restrictions lifted

More travel restrictions are also being lifted in some parts of the province today. A gradual removal of police checkpoints started last week, but the government is still asking Quebecers to limit themselves to essential travel only.

The checkpoints are being removed today in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Outaouais, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and parts of the Mauricie.

But Legault said Monday that Quebecers should nevertheless limit their travel between regions as much as possible.

WATCH | Where can you travel in Quebec?

Demystifying the rules around travelling in and out of Quebec

3 years ago
Duration 2:04
Some travel checkpoints are coming down in Quebec. Here's what that means for you.


Claire Loewen

Former CBC journalist

Claire Loewen was a journalist with CBC Montreal until 2020.

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