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Quebec’s number of coronavirus cases nearly tripled in one day: what’s going on?

A paramedic brings a patient to Notre-Dame hospital in Montreal, Canada, 15 March 2020. .
A paramedic brings a patient to Notre-Dame hospital in Montreal, Canada, 15 March 2020. . EPA/Andre Pichette

Quebec had a reported 628 cases of the novel coronavirus in the province on Monday — nearly tripling its number of cases in one day and currently the highest number in the country.

The surge in cases is up 409 from Sunday.

So how did this happen?

READ MORE: Quebec shutters all non-essential services as coronavirus cases spike to 628

Quebec Premier François Legault says one of the factors why Quebec is seeing a spike is because the province’s spring break takes place at an earlier date compared to other provinces.

Quebecers started returning home from travel abroad before anyone else in the country.

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec cases climb, most businesses asked to close
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec cases climb, most businesses asked to close

Travel-related infections represent the bulk of reported cases but Legault says the province has started seeing community transmission.

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“We are entering a more critical phase,” said Legault before announcing that he is ordering the closure of non-essential businesses as of Tuesday at the latest.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Quebec cases climb to 219, schools to remain closed until May

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, said more testing is a factor in the increase.

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“We had told you that we are going to be testing a lot. We’ve privileged action to statistics because that’s what’s important right now,” Arruda said.

But the most impactful reason is the government’s decision to include the number of potential cases in the total number of cases recorded in the province.

READ MORE: Montreal police declare state of emergency, 100 officers in quarantine

Legault says the province is changing the counting method to better reflect the current reality of the spread of the virus.

Nathalie Auger, an epidemiologist with the University of Montreal, called the government’s decision to include potential cases in the total count of infections an essential step in the fight against coronavirus.

“Reporting the number of probable cases will bring the reality of the matter closer to home,” Auger said.

“By reporting probable cases, many of which will turn out to be real cases, Quebecers will hopefully respond in a more responsible manner to social distancing. This is an unprecedented emergency.”

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Arruda is encouraging Quebecers to remain calm while continuing to use social-distance measures.

“I don’t want to scare people but it’s a matter of life and death,” Arruda said.

— With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise