Quebec Premier François Legault is asking seniors over the age of 70 to stay home until further notice amid 24 cases of the novel coronavirus outbreak, including the first confirmed case involving a child.
The Sainte-Justine Hospital received the first child case of coronavirus in Quebec, according to spokesperson Florence Meney.
“But the child is now back at home,” she said, adding she could not provide more information about the patient.
The province is banning all visits to seniors’ residences, long-term care facilities and hospitals to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The health risks are greater for seniors and the government has to act now, according to Legault — who told his own mother she needs to not leave the house.
“We have to as a society be capable of protecting our older citizens,” he said on Saturday at news conference in Quebec City.
The government has also adopted a decree to declare a state of health emergency for at least 10 days.
“We want to limit the risks of contagion,” said Legault.
As of Saturday afternoon, the health ministry confirmed there several new cases, bringing the total number of cases of the novel coronavirus in Quebec to 24.
There are 850 people undergoing testing and that nearly 1,400 tests have come back negative.
The new plan comes after the provincial government announced an expanded protocol to deal with COVID-19 on Friday. The sweeping measures are necessary, according to Legault.
“This is a race against the clock,” said Legault.
As part of the plan, the province announced on Saturday it will be opening a total of 19 medical clinics to evaluate and test individuals who believe they may have contracted the coronavirus.
The Quebec government is also urging people — of all ages — to postpone trips until further notice as the number of cases continue to rise around the world.
“It’s not a good idea to travel abroad,” said Legault. “Regardless of what age you are.”
While the province adopts strict measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, Legault reiterated his call to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to restrict access to the country.
Anyone who thinks they may have COVID-19 are now being asked not to call 811. They should instead call 1-877-644-4545.
Montreal businesses feel the pinch as measures ramp up
As part of measures announced over the past 72 hours, all universities, CEGEPS, schools and daycares will be closed for two weeks starting on Monday.
Under the province’s guidelines, government employees who travelled abroad are ordered to stay home for 14 days in quarantine. The province is also strongly recommending that any Quebecers returning from international travel do the same for that period of time.
Large indoor gatherings of more than 250 people are banned, which has forced a slew of cancellations and delays for events. Many municipal buildings are off limits and some private-sector businesses have also closed as a result.
The province’s initiatives have prompted a downturn in clients for businesses and stores in downtown Montreal. While many owners say they understand the situation, some say their drop in sales have been significant since earlier this week.
“Our business has been affected by about 50 per cent,” said Alain Créton, the owner of Chez Alexandre and the president of the Peel Street merchants’ association.
Legault indicated on Saturday that the government will roll out a plan in the coming days to help ease the economic impact of the virus.
“We will announce in the next few days measures for people, for companies and also measures for the economy in general,” he said.
— With files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter the Canadian Press