Quebec Premier François Legault has announced the province is adopting exceptional measures in wake of the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak on Thursday morning.
All people returning from abroad or who experience flu-like symptoms are asked to put themselves in voluntary self-isolation for 14 days. Government workers, such as teachers, who have returned from international travel are ordered to stay home for that period of time.
“The next two weeks will be critical,” Legault told the province’s national assembly, adding he hopes Quebec will avoid a similar situation as to what is unfolding in Italy.
The plan comes as the province declares its 17th confirmed case of the virus on Thursday. As a result, Legault is also asking employers to be flexible and for employees who can to work from home.
The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday night. The MUHC said a young adult who recently returned from Europe is currently in isolation.
The province is also banning indoor events of more than 250 people to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Montreal Canadiens games must be played without an audience, he added — however the National Hockey League suspended its season on Thursday.
Legault said the province isn’t excluding the possibility of taking more drastic measures, such as closing schools, if the situation escalates.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “But at this moment we can’t rule anything out”
The Quebec government will also unroll initiatives to help private businesses in the coming days, but Legault is asking for companies and employers to be understanding if workers need to stay home.
“Our goal is to slow down the spread of the virus,” he said.
The plan has sparked the cancellation of several events in Montreal, including the St. Patrick’s Day parade and the city’s symphony orchestra’s next 11 concerts.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec’s public health department, stressed that there is not yet a crisis in the province, but that preventive measures are important.
“We could be in crisis and what we want to do is a prevent a crisis,” he said.
Health officials are also reminding any travellers who experience COVID-19 symptoms, to please contact Info-Santé at 811. Caseworkers can help individuals book appointments at one of the three designated clinics.
Anyone who has questions or requires more information about the virus can contact Quebec’s hotline at 1-877-644-4545.
—With files from the Canadian Press