Quebec schools, universities and daycares closed for 2 weeks
'This is a measure we have to take,' Quebec premier says
All schools, universities, daycares and CEGEPs in Quebec will be closed for two weeks starting Monday.
The government is asking people not to call 811 if they suspect they have COVID-19. Instead, they should call 1-877-644-4545.
Quebec now has 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with another 266 people under investigation.
The STM says the risk of transmission on public transit is still low and will therefore keep running as usual.
The STM is asking that anyone who has symptoms stay off public transit, and that people modify their work schedule to avoid large crowds at rush hour.
A respirologist at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) who saw patients has tested positive for COVID-19.
Hospitals and long-term care facilities in Montreal are restricting visitors, and some are banning them entirely.
Montreal is closing arenas, libraries, pools and sports centres as well as the Planetarium and the Botanical Garden. Public transit will continue operating.
The Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court are suspending some of their activities until further notice. During this period, only urgent requests will be processed.
The Quebec government is banning all indoor events with more than 250 people.
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.
All schools in Quebec have been ordered to remain closed for the next two weeks, starting Monday, including daycares, CEGEPs and universities.
"I understand that today's announcement will have a significant effect on a lot of parents," Premier François Legault said Friday. "But this is a measure we have to take."
He said the measures are meant to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of the population.
Legault made the announcement Friday, a day after the Quebec government banned all indoor events with more than 250 people.
Many schools already opted to close Friday as they grappled to comply with the new directives. Ontario ordered its schools closed on Thursday.
Quebec now has 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 200 others under investigation, as of Friday morning.
One of them is a respirologist who saw patients at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM). The hospital confirmed the doctor tested positive for COVID-19 Friday.
The doctor saw the patients before developing symptoms.
The government is also asking people to call 1-877-644-4545 if they have questions about COVID-19, instead of calling 811. The service has been overwhelmed and callers are experiencing long wait times.
No food shortages, but tighten the borders: Legault
Legault said he is asking his federal counterparts for tighter control at the borders and to limit the flow of people into the country.
"We are asking our citizens to isolate for 14 days but we're asking nothing of tourists. So, I am asking Justin Trudeau, the federal government, to limit quickly the entrance of visitors in Canada," Legault said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking to Radio-Canada Friday morning, said closing the borders was a possibility. Later Friday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said overseas international flights into Canada would be restricted to a smaller number of Canadian airports.
Despite these measures, Legault said Quebecers shouldn't panic. He said the risk of transmission in the province remains low, and the government doesn't anticipate a food shortage in the province.
"It's important that people don't worry. Grocery stores will continue to be stocked, truck drivers who do extraordinary work will continue to deliver," said Legault.
"You may worry about getting the coronavirus, but don't worry about getting food this week or the week after."
Containment measures continue
There have not been any known cases of community transmission in the province so far, but the Quebec government introduced sweeping measures Thursday to contain the spread of the virus.
Municipal services in Montreal are closed until further notice, including arenas, libraries, pools and sports centres, as well as the Planetarium and the Botanical Gardens. Public transit in the city remains operational.
Montreal's regional health agencies also announced they are restricting visits in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal said people who have left the country in the last 14 days, or who exhibit flu-like symptoms, will not be allowed to visit patients in Montreal hospitals.
The Notre-Dame and Verdun hospitals, will no longer accept visitors at all. Exceptions may be made for "humanitarian reasons," such as visiting someone who is in end-of-life care.
The CIUSSS de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal is banning visitors from its hospitals and facilities entirely.
The Assembly of Québec Catholic Bishops have also cancelled Saturday and Sunday masses across the province for the foreseeable future, citing the government's directives.
All government by-elections are also cancelled until at least April 26.
Public transit available as usual
Montreal's public transit authority, the STM, is maintaining its usual schedules and services. STM Director General Luc Tremblay said the risk of transmission on public transit is still considered low, but said the STM is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of passengers.
"The STM is requesting, whenever possible, that its customers ask for greater flexibility from employers in organizing work schedules to allow trips to take place outside of peak periods," said Tremblay.
Tremblay said that, if the situation gets worse, they will consider reducing services or changing schedules.
In the meantime, the STM has increased its cleaning measures. Most-used surfaces, including handrails and fare machines, will be cleaned twice a day. Grab rails and poles on metros and buses will also be cleaned once a day.
Tremblay said STM staff will be working overtime to ensure the extra cleaning measures can be put in place.
All STM employees are also prohibited from travelling outside Quebec. Should an employee choose to travel, they will be obligated to self-quarantine and will not be paid for that time.
Tremblay said they are tracking the situation and revising their action plan four times a day.
"We are concerned for the future and that's why we are preparing ourselves to deploy another plan if the situation gets worse," said Tremblay.
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.