Quebec Premier Francois Legault on Wednesday announced that he is to impose an 8pm curfew in the province from tomorrow as a way to curb surging COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
The French-speaking province of more than 8.4 million people is to become the first in Canada to impose a curfew to address the pandemic.
While schools, stores and many other businesses have been closed since last month, COVID-19 infections and related hospitalizations have continued to rise, Legault said.
Too many seniors are ending up in hospital after becoming infected in private homes, he said.
“We are obliged to provide a type of shock treatment so that people reduce their visits,” he told reporters.
Beginning tomorrow until at least Feb. 8, Quebec residents would be under a curfew from 8pm to 5am, Legault said.
He said anyone caught breaking the curfew would be liable to a fine of C$1,000 to C$6,000 (US$788 to US$4,729).
The government is considering creating a document for people who have to be out after the curfew that could be shown to police, he added.
“When we say we are giving an electroshock, it’s really for four weeks, a period that should make a difference,” Legault said.
He said officials have been struggling to understand why the province’s caseload has continued to spike, despite the existing restrictions. They concluded that the coronavirus was being spread through gatherings in residences and the curfew is meant to prevent that.
Legault said all nonessential businesses that he ordered closed last month would remain closed until at least Feb. 8, but that elementary schools would reopen as scheduled on Monday next week, and high-school students would return to in-person learning the week after.
“Our children have to be able to continue to learn,” he said.
Speaking before Legault’s news conference, Donald Sheppard, chair of the microbiology and immunology department at McGill University in Montreal, said that the government needed to explain the logic behind a curfew, because the majority of outbreaks have been in workplaces and schools.
Quebec on Wednesday reported 47 more deaths related to COVID-19, with 2,641 new cases, and a rise in both hospitalizations and people in intensive care. It has recorded a total of 217,999 cases and 8,488 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Much of Quebec, including the province’s largest cities, has been under partial lockdown since October last year, when bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues were closed.
Canada on Wednesday had recorded 631,466 cases, with 16,403 of them fatal. The bulk of cases have been in the nation’s two most populous provinces — Ontario and Quebec — where conditions have been deteriorating rapidly.
Compounding the picture is the still small, but growing number of cases related to a variant first identified in the UK that is believed to be more contagious.
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