COVID-19 in Quebec: Time for everyone to follow the rules, deputy premier says

Geneviève Guilbault was blunt: it's not the time to be holding gatherings, businesses that are non-essential need to close their doors, and travelling between regions should be avoided if at all possible.

Rouyn-Noranda, Charlevoix region added to list of travel restrictions

Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec's deputy premier, says it's time that everyone start following the government's public health directives. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)
  • Quebec has 6,997 cases and 75 deaths attributable to COVID-19. There are 478 people in hospital, including 130 in intensive care.
  • Montreal is the "epicentre" of the outbreak, with 3,261 cases.
  • Starting tomorrow, most businesses will be closed on Sundays.
  • Travel restrictions are in place for the Charlevoix region and city of Rouyn-Noranda.
  • Partners and doulas have been banned from the maternity ward at the Jewish General Hospital.

With the number of deaths related to COVID-19 rising every day, it's time for Quebecers to buckle down and follow public health directives, the deputy premier says.

Geneviève Guilbault was blunt: it's not the time to be holding gatherings, businesses that are non-essential need to close their doors, and travelling between regions should be avoided if at all possible, she said.

"It is no longer acceptable for individuals or groups of people to be undermining collective efforts," she said Saturday during the government's daily briefing.

Another 14 people have died of COVID-19 in Quebec, bringing the total number of deaths to 75.

Quebec has 6,997 cases, an increase of 896 from Friday, and there are 478 people in hospital, including 130 in intensive care.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's public health director, said the majority of people who are dying from the virus are over 70 years old, which was expected.

Guilbault said the hospitalization numbers are relatively encouraging, when compared to the number of cases, but acknowledged the statistics are hard to hear.

"Behind the numbers, there are human beings. There are people who are suffering. There are families that are worried," she said. 

Travel restricted to Charlevoix, Rouyn-Noranda

Guilbault also announced the Charlevoix region and the city of Rouyn-Noranda have been added to the list of regions where travel is banned

"It will help us prevent the virus from spreading from one region to another," she said. 

Officials in the Charlevoix, including MNA Émilie Foster, have been in discussions for almost two weeks to have movement restricted to essential travel only. 

La Malbaie Mayor Michel Couturier told Radio-Canada he wants to avoid people travelling from bigger city centres to self-isolate in the Charlevoix, which would put residents at risk. 

Police across Quebec have been setting up checkpoints to control entry into restricted regions. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

Guilbault said there is a process whereby information and best practices are being shared between police services, but in the end, it's up to them to decide how the public health orders will be enforced.

It's not impossible, she said, that an officer will force someone to turn back if they are trying to travel to a restricted region — even if they are going to bring someone groceries, for example. 

She said people should look into local resources before asking for help from someone outside their region. 

Grocery stores brace for busy day

Meanwhile, Quebec grocery stores are expecting business to be brisk today before they close their doors tomorrow

During the month of April, most businesses that are still open will close on Sunday to allow staff a day of rest. Dépanneurs, gas stations and pharmacies can remain open.

Stéphane Lacasse, the director of public and governmental affairs for Quebec's association of retail grocers, said there are no supply shortages, but stores may limit the number of people inside at one time so that there can be enough space between shoppers.

Grocery stores in Quebec will be closed on Sundays. Stores were bracing for more people to do their shopping on Saturday as a consequence. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

"We're asking people to be patient and understanding of the situation," Lacasse said, adding people should wait until Monday or Tuesday to do their shopping if they have enough food to last until then.

Making equipment in Quebec

On Friday, Premier François Legault said the province has enough personal protective equipment to last eight days, and that more masks are on the way.

He said it's important for Quebec start making its own equipment, a sentiment echoed by Health Minister Danielle McCann on Saturday.

"We are in touch with many enterprises and we're working very, very fast to put together the chain of production so we can become autonomous as fast as possible," she said.

Her comments come after a Home Hardware-affiliated store in Montreal that was selling coveted N95 masks to the public decided to reroute them to health-care facilities instead.

Earlier this week, the store at Parc and Bernard avenues had a sign in the window saying the masks, which are in high demand across the health-care system, were on sale at the cash. 

N95 masks had been on sale at a Home Hardware-affiliated store in Montreal, but will now be sold to health-care facilities. (Radio-Canada)

In a statement, Home Hardware said there wasn't a shortage of the masks when the store was selling them to the public.

The company says it will sell an incoming shipment of the masks to Quebec hospitals — at the price it paid for them.

Officials have been adamant that masks are best saved for health-care professionals, and that handwashing is the best way for members of the public to protect themselves.

With files from Radio-Canada's Romain Schué

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