Quebec’s premier is calling on police forces and municipalities across the province to crack down on citizens flouting social-distancing measures as the number of novel coronavirus cases spiked on Thursday.
François Legault said fines can go as high as $6,000 for anyone who breaks the rules such as holding large gatherings.
“I think that’s deserved for people not respecting the rules,” he said during his daily update in Quebec City.
As of Thursday, three more Quebecers have died as a result of COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 36 fatalities.
There are 5,518 confirmed cases — up more than 900 from the previous day. It is the highest jump in infections in the province to date.
There are 365 people in hospital and 96 of them are in intensive care, but Legault stressed that the health-care system is prepared to handle more cases.
“It is certain that one death is one death too many, but when we look at the percentage of the population, we have far fewer deaths in Quebec than in the United States or in all countries in Europe,” he said.
“So it has to stay that way, but for it to stay like that, everyone has to follow the directives.”
While the majority of people are respecting the rules, Legault said some citizens are risking others’ lives and health by not following the province’s guidelines.
The public must work together in the fight against the pandemic, he added.
“It’s serious,” he said. “There are lives in danger.”
When it comes to medical equipment, Legault reiterated the health-care system has enough ventilators to get through the pandemic’s peak.
However, there is only enough protective gear for the next week before the province experiences a shortage.
“It’s not ideal,” he said. “But it’s a better situation than many other states.”
More support for health-care workers
The deepening health crisis has led the province to temporarily increase the salaries of health-care workers in contact with patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
The government is investing $287 million, retroactive to March 13 in order to support employees.
“I think we want to recognize the great work, the very important of health-care workers,” said Health Minister Danielle McCann, adding the government is taking into account the extra efforts by staff during the pandemic.
When it comes to the public sector, intensive care, long-term care and screening clinic workers will get an eight per cent salary raise. Other workers such as 811 responders and housekeepers will get a four per cent raise.
As part of the plan, orderlies in private residences will also get an additional $4 per hour as a temporary measure.
Their salaries — which are typically $13 or $14 per hour — are “very low,” said Legault.
“I’ve never seen a group that deserves a raise quite like them,” he said.
Montreal increases police presence in parks
The Island of Montreal accounts for nearly half of the province’s COVID-19 cases with more than 2,500 confirmed infections as of Thursday.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced she is extending the city’s state of emergency to deal with the pandemic.
The city will also bolster police presence in local parks to ensure Montrealers are obeying physical distancing and not gathering in large groups.
After Legault highlighted the need to enforce the restrictions, Montreal police said they will no longer tolerate violations and dole out fines when necessary.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »