'Of course, I'm worried': PM Trudeau expresses concern about Quebec's reopening plans

As Quebec begins to reopen schools and businesses, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concerns about the province’s deconfinement plans, particularly in Montreal.

“Of course I’m worried — as a Quebecer, as an MP — about the situation going on in my riding, in the province, as I am concerned about Canadians coast to coast to coast as prime minister,” Trudeau told reporters gathered outside his home in Ottawa on Saturday morning.

Despite having nearly twice as many confirmed cases of the virus than any other province and nearly 60 per cent of the country’s total deaths, Quebec has become the first province to begin reopening schools and businesses everywhere outside of Montreal.

Montreal was initially scheduled to reopen its schools, daycares, and businesses on May 11, but Quebec Premier Francois Legault pushed that back to May 25 amid heavy criticism.

With 18,435 cases of COVID-19 and 1,727 deaths, Montreal is by far the hardest-hit region in Canada and the epicentre of the outbreak in the country. The city’s long-term care homes and several other areas have continued to see sustained community transmission.

According to a new report by the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec (INSPQ) in collaboration with experts from Laval University, the Greater Montreal Area could see an average of 150 deaths daily by the end of June if deconfinement were to take place now.

The INSPQ also projected 1,000 new cases of the virus a day and a rapid increase in hospitalizations should restrictions lift. 

When asked about Quebec’s controversial timeline to reopen, Trudeau said he understands the economic pressures provinces are under to open up again.

“I understand how much people do want to go outside, but we need to do it in ways that we are sure are going to keep people safe because the last thing people want is a few weeks from now being told ‘OK we loosened the rules and now COVID is spreading again and you’re all going to have to go inside for the rest of the summer,’” he said.

Later on Saturday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller also responded to a question regarding his thoughts on Quebec’s reopening timeline. The minister, whose riding is located in downtown Montreal, said the vast majority of those who are dying are seniors in long-term cares homes and that will continue if public health measures are relaxed in the city too soon.

“That is the scientific conclusion,” Miller said. “We need to let the virus run its course.”

Miller asked Canadians to be patient a little while longer and to continue to adhere to physical distancing guidelines because “we’re not out of the woods.” 

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