Reopening of schools, daycares and businesses in Montreal area delayed to May 25
Montreal unveils further initiatives aimed at supporting local businesses
The Quebec government has postponed the planned reopening of elementary schools, daycares and businesses in the greater Montreal area to May 25.
Premier François Legault said the government has been looking at two factors as it decides whether to go ahead with reopening parts of the province: how fast the virus is spreading and the availability of hospital beds.
"Today we're seeing that the conditions to keep our initial reopening calendar in Montreal are not met, for the moment," Legault said Thursday.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said protecting the population remains the priority, and Legault's decision will give schools, businesses and city officials time to prepare for a safe reopening.
"I totally agree with this decision since public health must come first all the time," she said Thursday afternoon, as she announced another $5 million in support for local businesses.
School boards had also balked at the government's initial timeline, concerned they hadn't been given enough time to reopen schools safely.
WATCH | Legault says Montreal is not yet ready to reopen:
After Legault reiterated Tuesday that school boards would reopen when they are told to, the government-appointed trustee of the English Montreal School Board, Marlene Jennings, reiterated Wednesday that board would make its own decision when to reopen, even if it means defying a provincial order.
Elementary schools and daycares outside of the Montreal area are still expected to open on May 11. The return to class is voluntary.
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Modifications such as limits to class size and a staggered recess schedule are being planned for the classes.
Montreal has more confirmed cases of the virus than any other Canadian city. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 17,442 confirmed cases on the island, and 1,562 people with the virus had died.
The reopening of retail businesses in the metropolitan area has now been pushed back by two weeks to May 25.
Dr. Mylène Drouin, the director of public health for Montreal, has said the city was not seeing conditions favourable to start reopening stores.
Montreal offers grants to hard-hit businesses
Montreal's executive committee has extended the city's state of emergency, first declared on March 27, to May 11.
The city has deployed a series of economic measures since the Legault government began shutting down the province to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus nearly two months ago.
Plante said her administration is continuing to do what it can to support local businesses.
Of the $5 million in new financial support announced Thursday, $2 million will be in the form of subsidies to merchants who are investing in sanitary materials, such as Plexiglass shields and hand sanitizer.
"This $2 million represents direct assistance," Plante said. "It is not a loan."
Additionally, $2 million in grants have been earmarked for community-based social economic enterprises, to help cover expenses such as rent and salaries, announced Coun. Luc Rabourin, the executive committee member in charge of economic development.
The city is offering a total of $500,000 in support to private non-subsidized performance halls, including independent cinemas. Another $300,000 will go toward providing free access to advice and training on topics such as finances and legal matters.
Business owners in need of support are encouraged to contact the city.