'We are an army of Quebecers': Premier issues call-out for volunteers in fight against COVID-19

"We're counting on you to create a wave of solidarity in Quebec. But always in respect of the rules: wash your hands; no gatherings; distancing," Premier François Legault said at his daily briefing Thursday.

Now 1,629 cases, 8 deaths total, but public health director says 'situation under control'

'We are an army': Premier asks Quebecers to unite

CBC News Montreal

1 year ago
François Legault's message to citizens: "We need everyone to do their part." 0:37
  • Quebec has 1,629 confirmed cases and eight deaths attributable to COVID-19; 106 people are in hospital, including 43 in intensive care.
  • Many stores in the province are now closed until April 13. Here is what is still open.
  • A drive-thru testing clinic is expected to open in Côte Saint-Luc by the end of the week.
  • Montreal and Quebec City are both reducing their public transit service.

Quebec Premier François Legault is encouraging people in a position to volunteer in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis to come forward.

The province promoted a website Thursday aimed at getting more people to assist at places such as food banks.

"We're counting on you to create a wave of solidarity in Quebec," Legault said at his daily briefing.

"We are an army of Quebecers united in the fight against the virus."

He urged those who need assistance not to hesitate to reach out.

"I want to tell Quebecers, 'Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to seek help. It's not your fault if you lost your job.'"

When asked if there was a contradiction between calling for volunteers while bringing the province's economy to a virtual standstill, Legault said there are people who need help — and if someone has free time and is in good health, they may be needed.

"But always in respect of the rules: wash your hands; no gatherings; distancing," he said.

Labour Minister Jean Boulet, who is co-ordinating the push for more volunteers, said the province's network of community organizations require assistance as they try to adapt.

"They have increased in terms of taking care of handicapped people, people who are elderly or people who don't have the capacity to take care of themselves," Boulet said.

The total number of Quebec cases climbed again Thursday, from 1,339 a day earlier to 1,629, and the number of fatalities climbed to eight. 

But Quebec's director of public health, Horacio Arruda, said the situation in the province is "under control."

Legault said he was pleased that Quebecers were adhering to the restrictions and closures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.

"We need everyone to do their part and to show solidarity," he said.

Not all organizations open to new volunteers

Accès Bénévolat, which helps connect volunteers to some 300 community groups, has been getting dozens of calls since posting to the government's new website, according to Sylvie Brunet, who works for the organization.

Brunet said Accès Bénévolat is looking for people who can run errands for people, be it shopping or cashing cheques for self-isolating seniors.

While it may be a time when people are supposed to be staying indoors, there are many who need others to deliver food and medicine, she said.

"It's very nice to see everybody that wants to help," Brunet said. "We had trouble answering everybody. It's heartwarming."

Other organizations, however, are hesitant to bring in new volunteers during the pandemic.

"If COVID-19 comes anywhere near our warehouse, we'll have to shut down and none of our families are going to get food," said Kim Reid, founder and president of On Rock, a Montreal food bank.

He said 220 families rely on the food bank's services and he is unwilling to put their service in jeopardy. For now, he said, he would rather work slower with the volunteers he knows rather than bring in new faces. 

A man walks towards the Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Montreal. The city has been effectively emptied due to social distancing directives for COVID-19. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

New testing centre for Côte Saint-Luc

In Montreal, a new drive-thru testing site is expected to open by the end of the week in Côte Saint-Luc.

The municipality declared a state of emergency last week when it learned four people had been confirmed to have COVID-19 after attending two separate weddings. One of them lived in a seniors' residence.

The regional director of public health for Montreal, Dr. Mylène Drouin, said 42 per cent of the city's confirmed cases came from central and western parts of the island, such as Côte Saint-Luc and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

"This population has a lot of elders," she said. "It is quite important to make sure that those elders are isolated or confined."

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said he expects to see about 500 people at the testing centre every day.

"We want them not going shopping. We don't want them on the streets," Brownstein said. "We want them in self-isolation, and we want them to know if they're positive."

Mohawks turn away non-resident shoppers

The two Mohawk communities near Montreal have closed their alcohol, tobacco and cannabis stores for the foreseeable future.

Kahnawake and Kanesatake have put the measures in place to encourage people to abide by the directives to stay two metres apart from one another and deter non-residents from visiting to shop.

Kanesetake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon said visitors from Ontario and Quebec were "posing a direct threat to our community."

"COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire around the world. We're not immune to it," Simon said.

Paramedics in self-isolation

One paramedic with Urgences-santé, which serves the Montreal and Laval regions, has tested positive for COVID-19.

The ambulance service said the paramedic has been isolated at home since symptoms appeared. Anyone who may have been in contact with the infected case has been notified.

There are about 70 paramedics currently in self-isolation, either because they travelled recently or because they came in contact with a confirmed case, the service said.

Urgences-santé has responded to 647 calls about a potential COVID-19 infection since March 1.


Benjamin Shingler is based in Montreal. He previously worked at The Canadian Press, Al Jazeera America and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @benshingler.

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