Outaouais residents await extended, strengthened lockdown

Residents on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River will hear details today about further pandemic restrictions that could even include curfews, as the province tries to grapple with rising cases of COVID-19.

Quebec Premier François Legault to announce details at 5 p.m.

Quebec Premier François Legault will announce Wednesday that the province's lockdown will extend beyond Jan. 11 by a further three or four weeks. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Residents on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River will hear details today about further pandemic restrictions that could even include curfews, as the province tries to grapple with rising cases of COVID-19.

Premier François Legault will hold a news conference at 5 p.m. ET to announce he's extending the lockdown, which was set to end Jan. 11, by three or four more weeks, and will limit people's outdoor activities to their family bubbles. Schools will remain closed to in-person learning an extra week or two.

He told opposition leaders Tuesday afternoon that no decision had yet been made on a recommendation by Quebec's public health agency to impose a curfew from 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The provincial government estimates 30 per cent of Quebecers aren't listening to the current messages to stay home except for essential trips, so stricter measures are needed, Radio-Canada reported.

It remains to be seen whether checkpoints on interprovincial bridges between Ottawa and Gatineau will once again be among those measures. 

Chelsea, Que., resident David Mason said rather than imposing such "autocratic" constraints on residents, the province should enforce rules already in place, and use positive messages instead of scolding people.

"It's almost as if we're little children," he said. "They need to treat us with respect and as adults." 

Lockdown was to end Jan. 11 

Non-essential businesses are already under a two-week lockdown that began Christmas Day and was to end Jan. 11. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, banks and pet stores remain open.

The Gatineau Chamber of Commerce says the province and other levels of government could do far more to help business owners weather the closures by offering property tax breaks, for instance.

The instability of being ordered to close, then being allowed to reopen with conditions, then forced to close again leaves the chamber's interim president Stéphane Bisson concerned local businesses won't survive.

Chantal Mcfadden co-owns À l'Échelle du Monde with her sister in Gatineau, Que. (CBC)

An extended shutdown will certainly hurt, said Chantal Mcfadden who co-owns the Gatineau, Que., gift and toy shop À l'Échelle du Monde with her sister. She said it will be critical for the government to allow non-essential businesses like hers to offer curbside pickup, which has been prohibited for the past two weeks.

"If we don't have pickup, sales will go from low to much lower and paying the rent is going to be a big thing," said Mcfadden, who remembers well the sleepless nights last spring during the initial pandemic shutdown.

Classroom closures also extended

School children in Quebec were also set to return to classrooms Jan. 11, but now elementary students are expected to learn from home for an extra week, and secondary students another two.

Michelle Labranche has three children at home on their computers, and thinks it would be wise for that to continue.

Her family kept to themselves in La Pêche, Que., over the holidays, taking a pass even on visits to parents and grandparents in nearby Ottawa.

Labranche said she's heard of many local families who weren't nearly so cautious.

"I just feel like if we were to go back [to school next] Monday, the virus would just spread really fast," Labranche said.

With files from Radio-Canada

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