Quebec’s economy has come to a halt for at least three weeks under the province’s orders after the number of novel coronavirus cases spiked to 628 on Monday.
“Today we are entering a new stage in this battle against the coronavirus,” said Premier François Legault during a news conference in Quebec City. “There is reason to believe that there is beginning to be community transmission.”
There are 45 people who are hospitalized and 20 of them are in intensive care. There have been four reported deaths in the province linked to the pandemic.
The surge in cases — up 409 from Sunday — means the province needs to roll out more stringent measures to slow the spread, according to Legault.
All companies and businesses that are not considered to be essential services are ordered to close as of Tuesday until April 13.
“We are putting Quebec on pause,” Legault said.
The measures do not apply to police, firefighters, health-care workers, grocery store employees, journalists or anyone who can do their jobs completely from home.
Legault has also ordered that all seniors living in residences be prohibited from leaving their homes until further notice, but all citizens should basically consider themselves to be on lockdown.
As of Monday, more than 1,800 people are awaiting their test results. Nearly 11,200 people have been given the all-clear.
In Montreal, there are 265 cases. However, a new drive-thru clinic opened on Monday in the city’s downtown core to provide testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
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The clinic located on Jeanne-Mance Street is expected to significantly boost the number of tests performed on the island. It can accommodate up to 2,500 people per day.
Quebecers urged to stay home
Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health, said on Monday that the spike in cases was expected due to an increased amount of testing.
However, he reiterated his plea for Quebecers to stay home as much as possible in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“When we told you no weddings, no funerals, it’s not because we don’t find them important,” he said.
“It’s because there are situations where people who don’t know they’re sick, but are sick, can contaminate others.”
The province has called on citizens of all ages to also limit travelling between regions until further notice.
Restaurant dining rooms, shopping centres closed
The expanded restrictions come as shopping centres and restaurant dining rooms closed on Monday under the province’s orders.
The province previously ordered the closure of all public spaces that accommodate large crowds, including gyms, libraries, public pools and cinemas.
Under the plan, the province’s police forces can also enforce the restriction on large gatherings. Montreal police say that people who don’t listen can face fines of up to $1,000.
The Legault government also expanded the closures for schools and daycares until at least May.
Sightings of military in Montreal not related to pandemic
The Canadian Armed Forces said sightings of the military in Montreal over the weekend were not related to the outbreak.
In fact, the army was bringing back equipment that had been sent to another province for a practice exercise.
In a statement, the CAF confirmed that it is ready to act if necessary. However, the military is not currently active in the area to deal with the pandemic.
“As things stand, we continue to work with our federal and provincial partners and stand ready,” the statement reads.
— With files from Global News’ Brittany Henriques, Alessia Simona Maratta and the Canadian Press