From Quebec City to Montreal, nearly everything is now in the COVID-19 red zone

Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Thursday that nearly all municipalities between the Montreal region and the Quebec City area are in the red zone. New, stricter measures will soon be enacted along with checkpoints to protect other zones.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé says bars, restaurants will close on Saturday in new red zones

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé, right, says public health has recommended a larger portion of the province be put in the red zone. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Thursday that nearly all the municipalities between the Montreal region and the Quebec City area along the St. Lawrence river are now considered red zones.

New red zones include the MRCs (regional county municipalities) of Bécancour, Nicolet-Yamaska, Drummond, Portneuf as well as the city of Trois-Rivières.

New, stricter measures will soon be enacted, along with police checkpoints to protect other zones, such as the Lac Saint-Jean. Police will be checking to ensure people are travelling for essential reasons, the health minister said.

"Our role is to stay ahead of the wave as much as we can," Dubé said. "That's why we are making these difficult decisions."

In the new red zones, restaurants, bars, theatres and other restricted businesses will close on Saturday, while masks will be required at all times in high schools starting Wednesday of next week.

For a complete list of which areas are now in the red zone, Quebec provides a website.

Dubé said the aim is to give business owners time to prepare, but still stop certain activities soon enough to slow the alarming spread of COVID-19 that has infiltrated regions of Quebec that got through the spring largely unscathed.

As for schools, he said teachers and administration will also have time to prepare — and to inform students and teachers on Tuesday — before requiring masks both in the halls and in class.

Students in grades 10 and 11 will also be alternating between in-person courses and online learning, only sitting in the classroom every other day in red zones.

Organized sports are also prohibited in red zones and gyms must close. In-person courses and activities in universities and CEGEPs (junior colleges) are also suspended in red zones, with only limited exceptions.

All these tighter rules are supposed to remain in effect until at least Oct. 28, but may carry on for longer, if health officials don't see a notable improvement by then.

The health minister is encouraging all Quebecers to do their part to "break the wave" this weekend.

Limit contacts to break the wave, officials say

Quebec's director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said people should stay home this weekend and for the rest of the month.

"If all Quebecers decrease their social contacts over the next 14 days, we will see a decrease in the number of new infections, guaranteed," he said.

Dubé said his daughter has had to explain to her own children why they can't see their grandfather. She's told his grandkids that Quebec is at war with a virus. Dubé is encouraging everyone to share that mindset going forward.

Quebec's director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, says people need to stay home and limit their contacts to protect themselves and others. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

"I know it's tough," he said, explaining it's vital that everybody do their part to protect themselves and others.

Quebec reported 1,078 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths on Thursday, two of which occurred in the last 24 hours.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 82,992 confirmed cases and 5,915 people have died. One death was subtracted from the total following further investigation.

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