Quebec declares 10-day public health emergency, bans hospital visits, calls on seniors to stay home

As of Saturday, Quebec has 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with another 850 people under investigation. More than 1,000 tests have been conducted and come back negative so far.

With 7 new cases confirmed, Quebec now has 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far

Quebec Premier François Legault is calling on residents aged 70 and over to avoid leaving their homes unless absolutely necessary. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)
  • For the first time in its history, Quebec has declared a public health emergency, to last 10 days.
  • Quebec Premier François Legault has banned all visits to public seniors' homes, long-term care facilities and hospitals.
  •  Legault is asking all people who are above the age of 70 to avoid leaving their homes unless absolutely necessary, as they are at a higher risk of serious consequences should they get the virus. 
  • Public Health Director Horatio Arruda is also asking all people with compromised immune systems or chronic ailments to avoid all non-essential outings, regardless of age.
  • The Quebec government has launched a health emergency decree for at least 10 days.
  • The province is adding seven more designated testing and treatment centres, creating a total of 19. It is also adding extra beds in these centres. 
  • Quebec now has 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with seven more cases confirmed Saturday morning. Another 850 people are under investigation.
  • Montreal's Sainte-Justine Hospital confirmed that one of the confirmed cases is a child.
  • Quebec's health insurance board (RAMQ) will start covering medical consultations that are held over the phone, the premier said.
  • All schools, universities, daycares and CEGEPs in Quebec will be closed for two weeks starting Monday.
  • Mont-Tremblant ski resort is also closed as of Sunday, until further notice. A statement from the parent company said it will provide refunds to those who have hotel and other bookings during the closure period. 
  • The government is asking people not to call 811 if they suspect they have COVID-19. Instead, they should call 1-877-644-4545.
  • People coming from outside the country or anyone with flu-like symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Click here for a summary of what you should know about COVID-19.

For the first time in its history, Quebec has declared a public health emergency, which is to last 10 days. 

Quebec Premier François Legault is calling on residents aged 70 and over to avoid leaving their homes unless absolutely necessary. Citing statistics from China, Legault stressed that seniors are far more likely to develop serious health repercussions if they contract the virus. 

"As a society we have to do everything to protect our senior population," said Legault.

Legault has also banned visits to hospitals and seniors' residences in an effort to protect seniors and those who are more at risk.

"We're doing this because we love them and we want to protect them," said Marguerite Blais, minister responsible for seniors and caregivers. 

"I know it'll be difficult for the population to accept this, but we have to react realistically. That's how we can prevent any crisis that can happen where there are vulnerable people," she said.

The emergency decree, a measure in effect for the next 10 days, gives the government the power to make purchases without going to tender. It grants Health Minister Danielle McCann additional powers, such as the ability to make emergency medical purchases and hire back retired nurses quickly and without undue paperwork.

"We have a bit of a race against time, and to stop the virus we need to react quickly, we need to make decisions really quickly," Legault said.

Closures in Quebec City

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said that pools, libraries and community halls in the area would be closed as of 5 p.m. Saturday. Municipal administrative buildings will remain open, he said.

The Assembly of Québec Catholic Bishops have also cancelled Saturday and Sunday masses across the province for the foreseeable future.

Seven more cases were confirmed Saturday, bringing the total to 24. Of the 24 confirmed cases, eight are in Montreal and seven are in the Montérégie. The rest are dispersed throughout the province. A full breakdown is available on Quebec's government website.

An elementary school student at the Collège international Marie de France school tested positive for the virus, the administration announced Saturday.

The child had recently returned from a trip abroad but had not been to an at-risk zone, the administration said. The child was last in school Tuesday afternoon. The school is now closed per government regulations.

People line up for supplies outside the Costco store, Friday, March 13, 2020 in Boisbriand, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

'Don't worry about getting food,' premier says

Legault tried to ease panic during a press conference on Friday, saying the province does not expect a shortage of essentials such as food and toilet paper.

"You may worry about getting the coronavirus, but don't worry about getting food this week or the week after," he said.

Montreal's public transit authority, the STM, is still operational and maintaining schedules. Ferries in the province are limiting passengers to 250 to comply with the province's directive.

Municipal services in Montreal are closed until further notice, including arenas, libraries, pools and sports centres, as well as the Planetarium, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Botanical Gardens.

Here's what you need to know about preparing for COVID-19:

If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, call 1-877-644-4545 before heading to a hospital or a clinic to seek testing. The government is asking people not to call 811.

The Quebec government is also posting up-to-date information on this website.