At his daily update on the COVID-19 situation, Premier François Legault announced that the number of cases in Quebec has cracked 2,000. "We're entering a new phase in the battle against the virus," he said. He further identified Montreal and Estrie as the hardest-hit regions in the province, asking residents not to leave or visit the two areas unless they must.

"It is very important that the people of these regions do not go to other regions."

"And other Quebecers must not go there unless it's very necessary."

Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda previously called Montreal a "hotspot" of the novel coronavirus in the province.

"Everybody must follow public health directives," the Premier again implored on Friday.

There are now 2,021 confirmed cases in Quebec.

Montreal accounts for almost half, with 971 in the region (which includes the metropolis and on-island suburbs).

But the Premier said he's not ready to order the confinement of residents of the city.

However, Dr. Arruda stated that "if some people do not comply [with the measures in place] and expose others [...] the measures can be tightened up."

The sharp increase in the number of cases in Quebec this week is largely due to an increase in testing capacity across the province.

On Monday, health officials also changed what it means for a case to be "confirmed."

"Since March 22, 2020, cases tested positive by hospital laboratories are now considered confirmed," the provincial COVID-19 website explains.

"They no longer require validation by the Laboratoire de santé publique du Québec (LSPQ)."

Quebec has ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses until April 13.

The federal and provincial governments, meanwhile, have announced emergency financial aid programs for people whose jobs have been impacted by the crisis.

Prime Minister Trudeau also announced Friday that Canada would cover 75% of wages for small and medium-sized businesses.

Stay tuned for more news.

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