Quebec records 10 more coronavirus deaths, urges travellers to avoid Montreal, Eastern Townships

Quebec Premier François Legault and health officials provide an update on the province's COVID-19 response plan.

The Quebec government has announced there have been 10 more deaths as a result of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 18.

Premier François Legault confirmed there are 2,021 COVID-19 cases in the province as of Friday afternoon — up 392 from the previous day.

“I want to offer my sincere condolences to the families, to their loved ones,” he said. “I know it’s hard.”

The illness has sent 141 people to hospital and 50 of them are in intensive care, he added.

While the government continues to tighten its measures, Legault warned there is a concentration of cases in Montreal and the Eastern Townships. People should avoid travelling to those areas and citizens who live there should not leave, he added.

“The risks are higher in those two regions,” said Legault. “It’s important you don’t move between regions, especially those two regions.”

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Coronavirus: Quebec’s Covid-19 death toll and number of infections continue to rise
Coronavirus: Quebec’s Covid-19 death toll and number of infections continue to rise

READ MORE: Quebec public health officials closely monitoring situation in Côte Saint-Luc

Public health authorities are keeping a close eye on Montreal, where nearly 1,000 cases ⁠— half of the province’s infections ⁠— have been reported. The province is in close contact with the city as the situation evolves, according to Legault.

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Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, said it’s unclear why Montreal’s west-end districts and suburbs are particularly hard hit. He hypothesized that those communities may have more ties to areas such as New York State, which has one of the highest infection rates in the United States.

As the health crisis deepens across the country, the province is also asking people to stay home unless going out for essential services. Walks are still permitted, but Legault urged caution and distancing.

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“If you have symptoms of the virus, you will not take a walk,” he said.

Helping victims of domestic violence during isolation measures

The province announced on Friday $2.5 million in emergency funding to help organizations that help victims of domestic violence.

Isabelle Charest, the minister responsible for the status of women, said in a statement that social-distancing and isolation measures are exposing more women than ever before to abuse.

The Quebec government stressed that individuals who are experiencing violence that it is okay to seek help and leave if necessary, despite the COVID-19 restrictions.

“Your health and safety are more important than anything,” said Charest.

Legault, for his part, asked citizens to contact authorities if they suspect or experience abuse.

“Be vigilant,” he said. “If you are aware that a child or a woman is experiencing violence, please call police.”

Concerns for victims of domestic abuse during self-isolation
Concerns for victims of domestic abuse during self-isolation

Quebecers answer call to volunteer

The premier paused momentarily when he spoke of the public answering his call for more volunteers on Thursday.

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Legault said that more than 12,000 people in a single day stepped up to volunteer for organizations that provide essential services.

“Quebecers are generous and we can be proud of that response,” he said.

READ MORE: Quebec seeks volunteers during health crisis as coronavirus deaths climb to 8

The province is asking anyone who is healthy and under the age of 70 to donate their time by signing up online to volunteer.

Volunteer activities include making calls to seniors, getting groceries for people with disabilities and providing household help for those in need.

Church bells to ring out on Sunday

Places of worship must remain closed under the province’s order to shutter all non-essential businesses, but two religious leaders are proposing a gesture of solidarity.

Catholic churches will ring the bells for 10 minutes at noon on Sunday to send a message of hope to Quebecers during a difficult time.

Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine and Quebec Auxiliary Bishop Marc Pelchat said in a statement that the crescendo will continue every Sunday until Easter.

“We want familiar bells to warm everybody’s heart, especially those of the elderly, who may feel more lonely, worried and in need of reassurance during this period of confinement,” said Pelchat.

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Coronavirus: Montreal suburb asking residents to report group gatherings
Coronavirus: Montreal suburb asking residents to report group gatherings

⁠— With files from the Canadian Press