Quebec announces new COVID-19 restrictions starting Thursday as 3 regions put on red alert
Quebec Premier François Legault says three regions are being moved to the highest COVID-19 alert level and stricter health measures are now necessary to curb the rate of transmission.
Those regions include Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches, south of the provincial capital.
“We looked at the results over the weekend and the number of cases has gone up significantly,” the premier said Monday during a late afternoon news conference.
“We need to make some difficult decisions.”
This rise in cases could lead to an increase of hospitalizations and deaths, he said, and the government must act quickly in the interest of all Quebecers.
The entire Montreal metropolitan area will be in the red zone, including heavily populated cities like Laval and Longueuil as the zone stretches into the surrounding regions.
The following new measures will take effect as of midnight Wednesday into Thursday in the three regions:
Ban on home gatherings, with only one caregiver allowed at once for those living alone.
All bars, casinos and restaurants are closed (takeout only).
Libraries, museums and theatres will also be closed.
Being less than two metres apart will be prohibited. Masks mandatory during demonstrations.
Houses of worship and venues for events like funerals and weddings will have a 25-person limit.
Hair salons, hotels and other such businesses will stay open.
Schools will remain open.
“Schools must remain open,” Legault said. “Businesses are open so parents can continue to work and earn money.”
To people not respecting rules, the premier had a special message. He said most people are respecting the rules, but some are not.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “We are not putting measures in place just for fun. We are putting measures in place to protect others.“
This a developing story. An earlier version appears below.
Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Sunday on Tout le monde en parle, a talk show on Radio-Canada, that both cities would move from the orange to red alert level in the coming days.
“Montreal and Quebec City are the hardest-hit areas at the moment. They’re very close to the red zone,” he said.
“We’re going to announce it in the coming days because I think we’ve arrived at that point. We’re there, and we have to act because people are expecting us to be transparent.”
Last week, Dubé urged the public to stop socializing for the next month in order to slow the spread of the virus but said he was reluctant to close bars and restaurants because it would lead people to have gatherings in their homes.
Quebec reported 750 new cases on Monday, 245 of which were on the island of Montreal. The Quebec City area, which had few cases during the first wave in the spring, had another 125 cases.
Quebec City and its immediate environs have emerged as a second epicentre of the fall coronavirus wave.
Taken together, the Capitale-Nationale region and Chaudière-Appalaches added more than 1,000 cases from Sept. 20-27.
Infection rates also continued to tick upward in the Eastern Townships, the Mauricie, the Gaspé Peninsula and Lanaudière.
Many regions have set new single-day records for COVID-19 cases; in the cases of Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches, they have tended to be superseded a short time later.
As Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said succinctly last week: “The virus is among us.”
While hospitalizations and deaths remain much lower than they were during the first wave, experts warn those numbers will increase in the coming weeks, putting stress on the health system.
Quebec’s Health Ministry reported Monday there were already more than 5,000 health-care workers in the Montreal hospital network on leave.
“The rise in new cases is not simply because of an increase in the number of tests,” said Dr. Donald Vinh, a microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre.
“It’s that the tests are becoming positive more often. That’s what worries us.”
Dr. Cécile Tremblay, an infectious disease specialist at the Université de Montréal hospital, said Sunday the virus is spreading out of control and suggested the government consider taking tougher measures to prevent the death toll from increasing.
Making masks mandatory for students inside the classroom was among the measures she proposed.
So far, there has been a total of 1,163 cases in 489 schools in Quebec. There are more than 3,000 public and private schools across the province, with more than than one million students and 226,000 staff.
“It is extremely important that people understand we are heading straight for a second wave that will be at least as bad as the first one, if not worse,” Tremblay said.
Neighbouring Ontario has also seen a resurgence of the virus. The province reported more than 700 cases today, the most on a single day since the start of the pandemic.
CBC News will have live coverage of today’s announcement.
TV: Watch CBC Montreal News with Debra Arbec from 5:30 until 7 p.m.