Quebec easing restrictions on seniors living in private residences

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by Basem Boshra, CTV News Montreal

After weeks of being locked down and isolated, seniors in private residences will soon be allowed visitors and will also be able to go outside to get some fresh air.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, Seniors Minister Marguerite Blais and Quebec director of public health Dr. Horacio Arruda announced the gradual easing of restrictions on private seniors' residences Tuesday.

Starting May 11, seniors in private residences — as opposed to government-run long-term care facilities, or CHSLDs — will be allowed visitors, who had been barred from such residences since March 23.

"We know the situation is very difficult. Autonomous people have been isolated for two months now," Legault said. "We've imposed this for public health reasons, (but) it's time to let them return to a more normal life."

Some 130,000 Quebecers live in around 1,800 private seniors' residences across the province.

However, Arruda specified that only seniors in private residences that do not have any presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19 would be allowed visitors or be able to go outside.

Arruda warned that measures including social distancing, washing of hands and wearing a face mask still apply and the rules could change should the number of COVID-19 cases begin to spike.

Provincial authorities also announced that for humanitarian reasons, families would now be permitted to visit those in palliative care.

And caregivers' access to long-term care homes would become the rule rather than the exception.

Although caregivers were told they'd be allowed to return in mid-April, Legault said the province found that many residences were continuing to deny their presence, sometimes for logistical reasons, so it would be up to homes to justify why they aren't accepting them.

Still missing more than 10,000 workers on frontlines: Legault

Quebec is still grappling with a shortage of employees in the health sector, with 11,200 missing from the frontlines because they are infected with COVID-19 or reluctant to return to work.

Legault called on those workers who've completed their 14-day quarantine -- about one-third of those missing in action -- to return to work.

The easing of restrictions does not apply to CHSLDs, which have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and have accounted for more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 related deaths in the province.

That’s up 118 from the 2,280 deaths reported Monday; COVID-19 cases in Quebec rose 794 from the 32,623 announced a day earlier. 

There are 1,821 people being treated for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals as of Tuesday, up 49 from the 1,772 reported Monday. Of those in a hospital, 218 are in intensive care, unchanged from the number reported 24 hours earlier. 

There are 714 people waiting for COVID-19 test results in Quebec as of Tuesday, down 112 from the 826 reported Monday. 

The number of people in Quebec who have recovered from COVID-19 as of Tuesday was 7,923 up 345 from the 7,578 recoveries reported a day earlier. 

With 16,691 cases, the Montreal area remains the hardest hit by COVID-19 in Quebec; you can see a regional breakdown of COVID-19 in the province here.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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