COVID-19: Quebec closing shopping malls, schools and restaurant dining rooms until May 1
Montreal will open giant new outdoor testing site on Monday, tripling city's testing capacity
- Quebec is closing all stores in shopping malls except for grocery stores, pharmacies and SAQ outlets at least until May 1.
- Schools will also remain closed at least until May 1. There will be no provincial exams this year.
- All restaurants must close dining-room service. Take-out service can continue.
- The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Quebec increased by 38 to a total of 219.
- Montreal is opening a drive-thru testing site on Monday. It will be open seven days a week and people can show up by car or on foot without calling 811, if they meet certain criteria (see more below).
- Starting Monday, Hydro-Québec will not charge late payment fees for those who cannot pay their bills.
- All playgrounds in Montreal have been closed.
- Call 1-877-644-4545 if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, instead of 811.
Restaurants, shopping centres and beauty salons have been ordered by the Quebec government to shut their doors by midnight on Sunday, and to stay closed until May 1.
The new regulation is part of the province's escalating effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants will still be able to operate take-out service. Grocery stores, pharmacies and SAQ outlets will remain open. Stores in shopping centres that have their own entrances don't have to close, either.
Earlier this weekend, the government announced it had banned most public and private gatherings of more than two people. Police in Montreal and Quebec City have been called to break up several gatherings.
Also on Sunday, the City of Montreal closed all public playgrounds until further notice. Municipalities around the province have taken similar steps.
Public health officials announced there are 219 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Quebec, an increase of 38 from Saturday. Of those, 24 have been hospitalized, 13 of whom are in intensive care.
"As expected, the number of cases continues to grow, but the actions we're taking since 10 days ago will start to really pay off in the next few days," Premier François Legault said at the government's daily news conference.
The death toll in the province has been revived downwards. Though Legault said Saturday there had been five deaths in the province linked to COVID-19, a test has since revealed that one of those fatalities was not caused by the disease.
Schools closed longer, educational help available
The Quebec government also announced on Sunday that schools, universities and CEGEPs will remain closed until May 1, if not longer.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said educational activities will be made available to parents online.
His ministry is also working with Télé Québec — a provincial French-language public television network — to produce television vignettes for children to watch.
Roberge said these educational offerings will be entirely optional.
"It's important to say to parents: we will help them," he said. "We don't want to transform them into teachers. We won't transform their homes into schools."
There will be no provincial exams this year. Roberge added that if classes do not resume before the end of the school year, students will be evaluated based on their grades accumulated so far.
Montreal sets up new clinic
Montreal public health officials, meanwhile, will open tomorrow an outdoor COVID-19 testing site in Place des Festivals, which could nearly triple the amount of testing done in the city.
Montrealers meeting certain conditions will be able to visit the clinic without an appointment. It will be accessible by both car and on foot.
The clinic will have up to 30 screening stations and operate daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Montreal's existing screening clinic, in the emergency room of the old Hôtel-Dieu hospital, is able to conduct between 600 and 800 tests per day. That number could rise to 2,500 when the outdoor clinic is fully operational, Montreal public health officials said.
But the provincial government appeared to be caught unaware by the announcement by Montreal public health.
Legault said he wanted people to call the provincial public health hotline anyway. "We are having discussions, so that [the new clinic] is integrated in our network," he said.
The regional public health authority for Montreal, the CIUSSS, said it received a mandate from the provincial Health Ministry to operate the clinic.
People don't need an appointment to go to the clinic, but they do need to meet at least one of the criteria from the contact section, and one from the symptom section listed here.
Patients can be triaged from their cars, but the screening is done outdoors, under large heated tents. You must bring your RAMQ card or another piece of identification and visitors are advised to wear outdoor clothing.
Results of the tests are expected within two to three days.
The STM is asking those going to the screening clinic not take public transit to get there.
With files from Kate McKenna