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Quebec Premier Francois Legault responds to reporters during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 1, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec is entering a pivotal phase in the fight against COVID-19, Premier Francois Legault said Sunday as he extended the closure of non-essential businesses in the province until May 4.

The three-week shutdown of non-essential businesses the government announced in March had originally been slated to end April 13. Grocery stores, pharmacies, alcohol and cannabis stores, restaurants offering takeout and businesses operating fully online were among those allowed to stay open.

But on Sunday, Legault extended the partial lockdown for another three weeks, warning the province that new COVID-19 cases were still climbing and the peak could be weeks away.

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“If we relax our efforts, we’ll just delay the moment when we’ll be able to go back to our lives,” he said.

The premier announced there were 19 new deaths in Quebec, for a total of 94, and 947 new cases for a total of 7,944.

Legault said the province was entering the “decisive phase” in the battle against the virus, and urged Quebecers not to get discouraged by the rising numbers. He said the number of cases and deaths had already been reduced because of the measures in place.

“Every action counts more than ever,” he said. “Each gesture saves lives.”

As a positive, Legault cited data released by Google last week that showed Quebecers had reduced their movement more than any other place in Canada.

He said Quebec had also received some crucial shipments of protective equipment, and now had enough gloves and N95 masks for 13 days. The province has seven days’ worth of gowns and surgical masks, and is hoping for more orders in the coming days, Legault said.

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