For updates on Quebec’s regional travel regulations, essential service workers testing positive for COVID-19, Montreal’s state of emergency and more, see below.
Cases of the novel coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, have climbed to 2,498 in Quebec on Saturday — an increase of 477 since Friday — and the number of deaths has climbed by four to 22.
The Quebec government announced the new number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province as of Saturday is at 164, an increase of 23. This includes 57 people in intensive care, which is an increase of seven.
The number of negative test results has climbed to 43,589 and there are currently 6,757 cases under investigation.
The number of confirmed cases of the virus in Montreal is at 1,219 as of Saturday.
Quebec’s public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda confirmed that none of the 22 deaths in Quebec were that of people under 60, specifying that most of the victims were between the ages of 80 and 89, and two were over 90.
Quebec to control regional travel within the province
Authorities will start controlling regional travel between eight regions of the province, forbidding all non essential travel to and from these areas, said Geneviève Guilbault, the province’s deputy premier and public security minister.
The provincial government confirmed the eight regions under lockdown are l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Côte-Nord, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Nord-du-Québec and the northern territories of Nunavik and Baie-James.
Guilbault said police checkpoints will be set up on the major highways outside these regions and officials will start controlling all travel as of 4 p.m. Saturday.
She added that this move is to protect the vulnerable communities in Quebec’s more remote locations, as well as limit the spread of the virus within the province and contain it in the areas already affected.
All drivers who get stopped by authorities at the highway checkpoints will have to meet “essential travel” criteria in order to be let through.
The security minister also said the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police have begun patrolling Quebec’s border with the United States.
Essential service workers test positive for COVID-19
The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) confirmed on Friday that one of its bus drivers has tested positive for COVID-19.
The public transit agency said the employee, who worked in Lasalle, is home in isolation and their last work shift was on March 20. The STM said it is following proper protocol and contacting all other employees that were exposed to this person.
A port of Montreal employee has also tested positive for COVID-19, confirmed the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) on Friday.
The MEA said the employee was removed from the job immediately and is home in isolation, adding that proper hygiene measures are being taken by terminal operators.
Montreal declares state of emergency
The City of Montreal declared a state of emergency on Friday as the number of cases of COVID-19 in the city continued to spike and represent around 50 per cent of all cases in the province.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the decision was made at the request of Quebec’s public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda.
The mayor’s declaration gives police officers new powers, including closing down non-essential businesses, stopping social gatherings and imposing fines on people for not self-isolating when ordered to do so.
Plante announced Friday the city plans to open more temporary shelters in the coming days to cope with the reduced number of beds in shelters. There are fewer beds available as shelters seek to apply social distancing measures.
It will also create outdoor day centres in public spaces normally frequented by the homeless, where food will be provided. The city plans to open five sites able to accommodate 1,000 people a day.
The City of Montreal also announced the closure of all dog parks and community gardens on its territory on Saturday, adding to the long list of public space closures.
— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier and The Canadian Press