Quebec Premier François Legault announced a tightening of COVID-19 restrictions ahead of the Easter long weekend, as the third wave of the pandemic takes hold in the province.
As of Thursday, four regions are being upgraded to red zones, the maximum alert level in the province, including the Outaouais, Capitale Nationale, Chaudières-Appalaches and Bas Saint-Laurent.
Legault made the announcement in Quebec City Wednesday afternoon, just one day after expressing concern over the rise in infections in those four regions.
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Special emergency measures will be enacted in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau where cases are rising almost exponentially, according to Legault.
Health officials in the Quebec City area, for example, reported 111 new cases on Sunday, and within 48 hours that number jumped to 194.
The concern, the premier said, is the increase in hospitalizations which is expected to follow.
“This is why I’m announcing that Quebec, Lévis and Gatineau, will be on pause for 10 days, until April 12,” he said.
Schools, non-essential businesses, theatres, cinemas, gyms and restaurants dining rooms, among others, will all be closed starting Thursday at 8 p.m.
Restaurants will be allowed to continue doing takeout and delivery only. Businesses that are being allowed to remain open are not allowed to sell non-essential items.
The 8 p.m. curfew is also being brought back in those three cities.
Schoolday care services will be kept open, but for essential workers only, as classes will be held online.
“For regular child care, we ask parents who can, to keep their children at home,” Legault said.
Places of worship are being kept open, but will be limited to a maximum of 25 people.
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Legault urged residents in those areas to stay at home to reduce the number of contacts and avoid spreading the virus.
He also called on all Quebecers provincewide to be more careful and abide by public health guidelines.
“With the variants, we can see an explosion of cases within a few days,” he said, adding the government is “ready to act quickly and strongly if the situation worsens in other regions.”
“We all know how to avoid contagion, we need to stay at two metres, wear the mask and avoid gatherings in homes.”
— With a file from The Canadian Press’ Jacob Serebrin
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