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Quebec Premier Francois Legault, flanked by Horacio Arruda, Quebec director of National Public Health, left, and Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann, responds to reporters during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Monday, April 6, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. Legault extended the period businesses deemed “non-essential” would have to remain closed, from April 13 to May 4.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s premier and its chief medical officer sounded cautiously optimistic on Monday about the province’s battle against COVID-19.

Premier Francois Legault said “only” eight people were hospitalized in the province with the disease over the day prior, a number he called “extraordinary.”

“If we can have this for a few days, that would mean we are approaching the peak,” he told reporters in Quebec City. “I don’t want to speculate, but it’s just, the numbers are encouraging today.”

On Sunday, Legault extended the period businesses deemed “non-essential” would have to remain closed, from April 13 to May 4. But a day later, the premier was smiling more than he usually does during his routine news conferences – and talking about “restarting the economy.”

“We may see the light at the end of the tunnel but we must continue to do everything we can to win the battle against the virus,” he said. “We must also prepare the restart of our economy.”

He said that when the virus in Quebec passes its peak infection rate, the province could start allowing more businesses to open, provided they can maintain distancing directives.

Quebec’s chief medical officer, Horacio Arruda, told reporters when the peak is reached, many different businesses could open, “but with different conditions.

“We’ll need to protect the cashiers with Plexiglas – those kinds of things will allow us to continue without putting (workers) in peril, and without having an intense resurgence of the virus.”

All of that will depend on when the peak comes – and Arruda says his team is not comfortable releasing any projections to the public because there is still so much uncertainty. The government, however, said it will present a series of projections and scenarios on Tuesday regarding the expected evolution of the virus in the province.

“My people are telling me: ‘Announce nothing, Horacio. They will cut your head off if you have the wrong number,’” he said, in reference to the public and to journalists who are hungry for information.

The province reported another 27 deaths on Monday, for a total of 121. Quebec also saw 636 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 8,580.

And out of 533 people in hospital, Legault said, 10 more were moved to intensive care, for a total of 164 severe cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defence released details Monday about the deployment of 14 Canadian Ranger patrols in Nunavik, a vast territory covering much of the northern part of the province.

The 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group “plans to mobilize 40 Rangers on continuous standby and another 40 on call for short tasks, as long as their presence is required and authorized,” the department said in a news release.

There are about 305 Canadian Rangers in Nunavik. They are members of the Canadian Army Reserve Force and are residents of the country’s northern communities.

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