Five people have now died in Quebec due to the novel coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, while the number of confirmed cases in the province has climbed to 181.
The Quebec government announced the additional four deaths and 42 new confirmed cases on Saturday. Officials said four of the five deaths were of individuals who lived at the same seniors’ residence.
Ten people in Quebec are currently in intensive care and another 10 people are being treated for the virus at the hospital.
Health officials said that as of Saturday, 1,512 Quebecers are under investigation and 9,242 tests results have come back negative. One person has fully recovered.
The Quebec government reiterated that its health-care system is ready to handle an influx of patients, as it has 4,600 hospital beds available to treat COVID-19 patients across the province.
Schools could remain closed until May
On Friday, Quebec Premier François Legault said, though previous announcements indicated schools would open March 30, elementary schools and high schools might face a different fate. Officials said those schools could remain closed until May.
Quebec biopharmaceutical company gets $7 million for vaccine testing
The provincial government announced on Saturday that it will be providing a $7 million grant to Quebec biopharmaceutical company Medicago to accelerate the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.
Medicago announced that it had successfully produced a vaccine candidate against COVID-19 on March 12.
The company said the government grant will allow it to conduct preclinical studies. The clinical studies, which include testing on patients, are set to begin this summer.
Quebec government says fines, arrests face people who don’t respect self-isolation
On Friday, police arrested a woman in Quebec City who was infected with the virus and walking around outside after being mandated to stay indoors. The arrest was the first time public health issued an order to Quebec City police under emergency powers granted after Legault declared a public health emergency on March 14.
Arruda said that regional public health directors across the province “will have no problem” ordering police to make arrests and ensure people carrying the virus are isolated.
“Starting now, it’s clear that we will restrict people who aren’t respecting the orders,” Arruda said. “Especially if they have already been advised, contacted, and we have information that they are walking around.
“It’s a question of respect. The rights of individuals stop when the impact on the community is very high.”
Quebec medical authorities say they give clear directives to people who test positive for COVID-19. If medical officers get the sense that an infected person might not obey isolation orders, the patient is monitored more closely.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police announced its new mitigation measures on Friday in response to the spread of the virus.
“Some Sûreté du Québec personnel have been reassigned to key locations in municipalities with regard to the needs determined by Public Health,” the SQ stated in a press release.
Legault, however, pointed out that compared to most countries, Quebecers have been incredibly cooperative in respecting social distancing measures. But “it isn’t time to stop now,” he said. “The worst thing we can do is let down our guard.”
Officials addressed the question of proper social distancing by reminding Quebecers that going on walks is important but to use good judgement.
Quebecers are still being asked to practice surgical hand washing and social distancing by staying home as much as possible — only going out for walks and to buy necessities such as groceries and medicine.
Measures for the homeless
The premier announced the government will be looking into ways to help the most vulnerable by providing some financial assistance to shelters and organizations.
On Friday, the City of Montreal announced measures to help protect the city’s homeless community, including sanitary hubs set up around the city and a shelter dedicated to isolating members of the community who are or who may be infected.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
–With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise and The Canadian Press