'Not the time to slack off our efforts,' says Montreal's mayor, as COVID cases decline at last

The reopening of many retail stores next week "is good news," said Mayor Valérie Plante Thursday, but even though the rate of infection in Montreal is finally on the downturn, people must remain vigilant and wear masks.

Mayor Valérie Plante says citizens must still do their part by respecting public health guidelines

Montreal is seeing a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases despite the increase in testing, but citizens have to plan for a summer close to home. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

With most retail outlets in the city opening Monday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says 60 extra inspectors will be checking on shops to ensure all the new work-safety standards are in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Although shopping malls have not yet been given the green light, stores with direct access to the street will be allowed to reopen.

"This is good news," said Plante at a briefing Thursday, encouraging people to continue to follow public health directives while out in public.

"This is not the time to slack off with our efforts," she said. "Face-coverings must be part of our habit."

The city has received an order of more than 20,000 face coverings, and 30,000 more are on the way. The plan is to hand them out to people who don't have their own, especially those who might not be able to afford them, as they go into tight public spaces like the Metro.

Most are being delivered to east-end boroughs that are COVID-19 hot spots, such as Montréal-Nord and Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Plante said.

Quebec has also given Montreal a million single-use masks to give away, and the city will be distributing those to community groups, such as food banks.

New cases on downward trajectory

Dr. Mylène Drouin, the public health director for the Montreal region, said there are 23,064 confirmed COVID-19 cases on the island of Montreal, and 2,411 people have died. 

That's an increase of 44 deaths in the last 23 hours, Drouin said, offering her condolences to relatives of the deceased.

Drouin said fewer Montrealers are now in hospital, and although more people are being tested daily, the number of new cases is now trending downward.

"That's a good thing," she said, but people still need to do their part by getting tested and practising property sanitary habits — especially the two metres of physical distancing.

"We are progressing toward normal life."

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says citizens must practise good hygeiene, keep their distance from one another and wear a mask when out in public. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Drouin said she suspects public health officials will be able to suppress community transmission in the coming weeks.

She encouraged people to take advantage of the various testing sites so public health officials can identify cases and get those who test positive for the novel coronavirus into isolation, so as to prevent further spread of the disease.

Testing is free and even people who do not have a health card can get a test, she said. 

This "deconfinement phase" will almost be like a dance, Drouin said, but the success of this reopening relies on persuading people to follow the public health directives.

Elementary schools will not be open until the fall, but Drouin said "we are working very hard" to develop offerings for families who need activities for children, and a break for parents, this summer. 

Earlier Thursday, Premier François Legault announced the province was giving the go-ahead to children's summer day camps to proceed, as of June 22. Sleepaway camps will not be allowed.

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