Quebec City officials say shutdown is necessary to curb 'exponential' spread of COVID-19

The region reported 261 new cases today, and regional Public Health Director Dr. André Dontigny said people can expect even more tomorrow in what he called an “exponential” growth situation.

Premier puts the city on lockdown for 10 days, gym outbreak reaches 120 infections

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume says the new measures are necessary, but admits they hit him "like a tonne of bricks." (Radio-Canada)

Officials in Quebec City are underscoring the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation in the region today, with the city entering a 10-day shutdown this evening. 

The region reported 261 new cases today and Public Health Director Dr. André Dontigny said people can expect even more tomorrow, in what he called an "exponential" growth situation.

Quebec City is one of three municipalities in the province that will go into lockdown measures beyond those of a red zone starting Thursday at 8 p.m. The other two are Lévis and Gatineau.

With the Easter long weekend just hours away, provincial police are setting up checkpoints to ensure people respect the curfew. 

There will also be a heightened police presence in areas nearby: l'Île-d'Orléans, Côte-de-Beaupré and the Jacques-Cartier area. 

Dontigny said the rapid spread of the virus is making thorough contact tracing next to impossible. 

"That's another reason to put some really strong measures," he said.

Ideally, he added, shutdowns would last 28 days, enough for two cycles of contagion, because the vast majority of people infect their entourage within 12 days. Four weeks would allow for even those people to quit spreading the virus and no longer be contagious.

Third wave looking different

Stéphane Bergeron, the director of professional services at the Quebec City university hospital network, said the third wave is going to look very different from the first and second. 

He said it's great that vaccines are being administered, but that with variant cases sweeping across the province, more young people are getting sick and being hospitalized. 

In the Quebec City region in the last 24 hours, three people between the ages of 35 and 61 have moved into intensive care. But younger people tend to stay in the hospital longer, which causes a cascade of other delayed surgeries and extended wait times. 

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said the new measures are a shock but they're necessary. 

He also said that despite the challenges — and financial cost — of weathering the pandemic, he's optimistic the city will get through it. 

Quebec City has poured more than $910,000 into pandemic-related expenses since Jan. 1 of this year. 

"People have a desire to be rebellious to the measures," Labeauje said. "I understand, people are tired."

Labeaume is asking residents to help each other make it through the next couple weeks, for example by ordering takeout from local restaurants to help them get through their current stock before it goes bad. 

Labeaume said he understands people may be worried the shutdowns will be extended, and he wants everyone to be empathetic to those who are living paycheque to paycheque and who will be hit hard financially in the next couple of weeks. 

He said while the priorities are vaccinations and following the rules, he is concerned for people's mental health. 

Looking ahead, Labeaume said the municipality will continue to invest in activities to help residents enjoy the summer. 

"We have to manage the crisis and apply the decisions made by the government, this is our first job," the mayor told reporters. "But we design our job to help people go through that hell."

Meanwhile, the number of infections linked to an outbreak at the Mega Gym 24H has reached 141, and from there, the virus has spread to 21 other workplaces.