Montreal

Quebec premier, opposition leaders show united front in support for holiday restrictions

Premier François Legault held a rare joint news conference Tuesday alongside opposition leaders to urge Quebecers that the need to follow the province's ban on gatherings is not just a political opinion.

François Legault warns health-care system will collapse if people don't obey rules

Quebec Premier François Legault addresses a news conference flanked by opposition leaders Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Dominique Anglade and Manon Massé in Montreal, on Tuesday, December 22, 2020. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Premier François Legault held a rare joint news conference Tuesday alongside opposition leaders to warn Quebecers the health-care system will collapse if safety measures aren't followed over the holidays.

Cases of COVID-19 are rising steadily in the province — Quebec posted a record-high 2,183 new cases on Tuesday — and particularly worrying is the number of people who are currently hospitalized due to the disease.

As of Tuesday, there were 1,055 COVID-19 patients in hospital. That's about half of the total number of beds in the province that have been set aside for treating the highly infectious disease. 

"It's important that we are together, united, to save our health network," Legault said at news conference.

He said that while the province has ordered most businesses to close over the holidays, and the winter school break has been extended, he cannot control what happens inside the homes of Quebecers over the Christmas season.

"It's time to be responsible," Legault said. He said Quebecers should think of health-care workers who will be spending their holidays treating the most severe cases of COVID-19.

Those who live alone can be invited over to celebrate the holidays — but that is the only exception for the province's ban on gatherings.

"We see the light at the end of the tunnel," Legault said. "We can make a difference if we stay united."

Legault also implored Quebecers to rethink any travel plans they may have this winter.

"It's not the time, even if it's allowed, to go south," Legault said, referring to the Quebecers seen boarding planes to vacation destinations such as the Dominican Republic in recent days.

He added the province is looking at ways of ensuring these Quebecers respect the mandatory 14-day isolation period when they return home.

That may include housing them in hotels, if the federal government requires aid from the province, Legault said.

Opposition parties come together with one message

Dominique Anglade, the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, said it was important the four leaders showed a united front in supporting the public health rules, given that the health-care system is at a "breaking point."

She asked Quebecers to call those who are feeling isolated over the holidays, saying it is a way to "propagate the Christmas magic, rather than the virus."

She said she has a list of about 20 people who she will be calling over the holidays.

"I'm thinking a lot about the people who will be in our health care system during the holiday season, looking after sick people," Anglade said.

Manon Massé, co-spokesperson of left-wing Québec Solidaire, said she was putting aside her political differences with Legault, temporarily, to show it is critical that Quebecers work together to avoid disaster.

Legault said that while the province has ordered most businesses to close over the holidays and the winter school break has been extended, he cannot control what happens inside the homes of Quebecers over the Christmas season. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

"It's putting others in danger," she said of those who don't follow the public health rules. "It could be you, or someone close to you who is next."

She said she will be calling her children and siblings this holiday season, instead of seeing them in person.

"I hope that everyone would respect the sanitary measures to be sure to take care of people who are taking care of us," she said.

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of the Parti Québécois, said obeying the rules is a "sign of respect" to those who are working day and night in the province's hospitals, and that it will save lives.

"At Christmas time, we think of others," he said.

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