Montreal

Quebec premier defends partial lockdown of red zones, urges population to do its part

Quebec Premier François Legault is defending his decision to clamp down on activities in the province’s red zones while again begging the population to help curb surging transmission rates by staying home.

Health minister says the aim is to reduce new infection rate by end of month

Quebec Premier François Legault says it is not easy to make such decisions, but he has had no choice but to take steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

Quebec Premier François Legault is defending his decision to clamp down on activities in the province's red zones while again begging the population to help curb surging transmission rates by staying home.

"Even if we wanted to please everybody, it is impossible," said Legault during a Wednesday news briefing. 

"There are those who say we are going too far, and those who say we are not going far enough."

However, his goal is not to be popular, he said. He is trying to keep the economy and schools open while ensuring hospitals aren't overrun with COVID-19 patients.

The Quebec government has come under fire by those opposed to mandatory mask rules, but Legault has pushed forward with public health recommendations — requiring high school students to wear masks in red zones starting Thursday.

Tens of thousands have signed a petition against the moratorium on team sports in red zones, but Legault made no mention of scaling back the rules.

Instead, he stuck to his oft-repeated message that Quebecers can fend off the pandemic but only if everybody follows public health guidelines.

Legault aims to keep hospitals running smoothly

Across Quebec, there are 409 COVID-19 patients in hospital (an increase of 12), including 62 in intensive care (a decrease of five).

Legault said the hospitalization rate is increasing and that will limit available services such as surgeries, lengthening the time people have to wait.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said it's not just seniors who are hospitalized. Young people can become seriously ill and end up in a hospital bed. They likely will recover, but it can take a long time.

"The actions that we take today, when we respect public health measures, will have an impact in 15 days," he said. 

"We need to have a win sometimes, and the win we can have in the next few days is to really stabilize the number of cases."

Health Minister Christian Dubé, right, says young people are more likely to recover from the coronairus, but those who end up in hospital take longer to heal. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

With Quebec is seeing about 1,000 new cases a day, Dubé said, the first goal is to stop that number from rising. The next step, in the second half of October, will be to lower it.

If the population is successful in reducing the spread, schools and workplaces will stay open, he said.

Arruda says everybody has to help

Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda said the situation is critical, but to prevent Quebec from taking that extreme step of closing everything down again, people must follow the rules.

"It is going to take a collective effort," he said. 

"What drives the epidemic right now, is social contact between individuals in all sorts of environments."

People need to adhere to public health guidelines and get tested if they have symptoms, he said. If people have been in contact with somebody who has COVID-19 or they are showing symptoms, they need to isolate themselves, he said.

 "Yes, we can close everything but we don't want to come to that," Arruda said. "It comes down to the behaviour of each person more than the closing of one place or another."

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