The Greater Montreal area, the Capitale Nationale area in Quebec City, as well as the Chaudières-Appalaches region are being bumped up into the red zone under the province’s novel coronavirus regional alert system as cases and outbreaks surge in the province.
Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement during a press conference in Montreal attended by both Health Minister Christain Dubé and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda.
The update comes after Dubé bluntly admitted the alert level could be upgraded to the highest zone for the province’s two largest cities during an interview with Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle on Sunday night.
“We will have to clarify the message because what we say to people will be: stay at home,” Dubé said.
The red zone designation comes with additional restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
Legualt said bars, restaurants, casinos, reception halls, libraries and museums will all be closed for a 28-day period, effective Wednesday at midnight.
Furthermore, residents in affected zones will be prohibited from hosting anyone in their homes.
Legault said only people living at the same address will be allowed inside a home.
There will be exceptions such as if an elderly person needs a caregiver or a parent needs a babysitter, or someone needs a plumber. But in all instances only one additional person can enter a private residence at a time.
Over the last week, the government has been urging people to limit socializing and cancel private events, such as dinners and barbecues, in order to stem the tide of the virus. Officials say the recent rise in cases is a result of community transmission.
Quebec reported 896 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, the province’s highest single-day tally in months. As of Monday, the province has recorded more than 72,000 cases and 5,826 deaths.
Government pushes for priority testing
On Monday, the government also announced it will be prioritizing testing for people with COVID-19 symptoms and those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
People who don’t fall into either category could be refused access to screening, unless recommended by a health professional.
The government says the move is necessary to improve contact tracing and control outbreaks of the virus.
“In the current context, while Quebec is experiencing a significant increase in cases and community transmission is accelerating, it is essential to prioritize screening tests that have a better probability of finding cases in order to quickly begin investigations,” the health ministry said in a written statement.
The ministry also recommends those who have come into contact with infected people to remain in isolation 14 days after the last “risky” contact, even after a negative test.
Those with COVID-19 symptoms who test negative are also being asked to self-isolate until they no longer show symptoms of the illness.
Monday marks Legault’s first public appearance since he has been at home as a preventive measure.
Although he tested negative for COVID-19, Legault had been self-isolating as a precaution after a meeting two weeks ago with federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who later tested positive.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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