Legault thankful Ottawa will shut border as COVID-19 cases climb in Quebec

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 50 in Quebec on Monday. Premier François Legault said he was happy Ottawa will finally close the border to foreign travellers, something he has been lobbying for since last week.

There are now 50 confirmed cases in the province, up from 39 yesterday

Quebec Premier Francois Legault responds to reporters questions as the government announces measures against COVID-19 virus on Saturday. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)
  • Quebec will provide $573 per week for workers in isolation who don't qualify for other income compensation measures.

  • Call 1-877-644-4545 if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms instead of 811.

  • 50 confirmed cases in Quebec on Monday, up from 39 on Sunday.

  • Increased screening coming at Montreal's Trudeau airport. 

  • The first COVID-19 patient detected in Montreal has recovered. 

  • Montreal public health says the likelihood there is already community transmission is "probable."

  • The STM is maintaining regular bus and Metro service with increased cleaning procedures.

  • Legault called on Quebecers to donate blood, to boost provincial supplies.

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Quebec, Premier François Legault welcomed the federal government's decision to close Canada's borders to foreign travellers.

Legault has been pushing for the measure since last week, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was initially reluctant to take that step.

Both the Quebec government and the City of Montreal were frustrated by the lax screening and scant information available for travellers arriving at Trudeau airport, a facility that falls under federal jurisdiction.

In Quebec, as in other parts of the country, there have been numerous reports of travellers arriving at airports and receiving no instruction about isolation guidelines currently in place by public health officials. 

On Monday morning, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante took the unusual step of deploying municipal employees at the airport.

Hundreds of businesses across the province have announced closures and reduced hours amid the social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Plante said it wasn't a matter of "throwing stones" at the federal government, but she felt there was a need "to strengthen the level of awareness of users about the seriousness and importance of respecting the public health recommendations."

The city workers have been tasked with informing incoming travellers they must stay home for 14 days, take their temperature twice a day and record any symptoms they start showing.

"Each time a traveller does not self-isolate, it's a breach that the virus can get through," said Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal's public health director.

The federal government appeared annoyed by the move. Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos gave an interview to a Montreal radio station, saying it was his government's responsibility to improve the situation at airports.

Finally, early Monday afternoon, Trudeau announced the border would close on Wednesday, with exceptions for American citizens, air crew, diplomats and immediate family members of citizens. 

"I'm very happy. I'm satisfied," Legault said after Trudeau's announcement. 

More closures as confirmed cases rise to 50

The Quebec government, meanwhile, continued to add to the long list of facilities it has closed in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Youth centres and outdoor activity centres will shut their doors, and the government is actively discouraging places of worship from holding marriages or funerals.

Unhappy with the federal response, Montreal officials will be dispatched to Trudeau airport to inform people arriving home about measures they should take to avoid spread COVID-19, according to Radio-Canada. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Over the weekend, the government ordered bars, clubs, concert halls, movie theatres, ski hills, amusement parks, spas and saunas to shut down. Fitness classes like yoga and spinning have also been cancelled.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stands at 50 in Quebec. But with 3,073 test results pending, the number of confirmed cases likely continue to rise, Legault said. 

There has not yet been a case of community transmission detected in Quebec, though public health officials believe it is simply a matter of time before that happens.

The virus has an incubation period of, on average, seven days before symptoms manifest. The symptoms escalate gradually for another seven days, on average, at which point a patient will be prompted to seek a test. 

"That suggests the numbers we're seeing today actually reflect disease that was transmitted two weeks ago," said Dr. Matthew Oughton, a physician in the infectious diseases division at the Jewish General Hospital.

The Quebec government announced a number of drastic measures over the weekend to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the province.  (The Canadian Press)

Health Minister Danielle McCann said the province is in the process of increasing its testing capacity. It is currently processing around 1,600 tests daily; the goal is to get that number up to 6,000 as soon as possible.

The priority for public health officials remains testing people who have travelled abroad and have symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

"But it's clear we'll be testing more people ... when we have that capacity," Quebec's public health director, Horacio Arruda, said Monday.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, call 1-877-644-4545.

With files from Daybreak

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now