The Quebec government will begin to ease restrictions on travel between its regions next week as the province moves forward with its recovery strategy during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault, who replaced François Legault during the daily briefing on Wednesday, announced the staggered measure, saying it can be adjusted based on how the situation unfolds in the coming weeks.
“We are progressing but it isn’t time to declare a victory,” she said, adding that Quebec still has a far way to go.
Police checkpoints will be lifted gradually in regions beginning next Monday, starting with the Laurentians, Lanaudière and Chaudière-Appalaches.
The slow progression of removing roadblocks will continue on May 11 in Abitibi, La Tuque, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and parts of Outaouais.
Guilbault said the regions of Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Charlevoix and the Côte-Nord will follow suit on May 19.
Travel restrictions will remain in place for several regions, including Nunavik and Gatineau, for now.
“We can’t give you a date today because we are still evaluating the situation,” Guilbault said.
The province initially clamped down and closed off regions outside of Montreal to non-essential travel in early April. The measure was introduced as a way to contain the spread of COVID-19.
However, Guilbault stressed that people should not be travelling between regions if they can avoid it.
“Now is not the time to rush to shops outside your region. Unless necessary, you are asked to stay in the area where you are,” she said.
The scaling back on traffic controls comes as the province prepares to reopen parts of its education and economic sectors over the month of May.
Guilbault said that Quebecers have been exemplary when it comes to following directives, but she warns that if they relax on social-distancing measures, it could delay the province’s relaunch plans.
“All of this is possible thanks to our discipline,” she said.
In Quebec, COVID-19 cases rose by 837 for a total of 26,594. Guilbault said 1,648 people are in hospital and 222 of them are in intensive care.
As of Wednesday, the respiratory illness has killed 79 more people, bringing the province’s death toll to 1,762.
Long-term care homes get helping hand from military
Long-term care homes, where the majority of the province’s fatalities attributable to COVID-19 originated, are continuing to get a helping hand from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Guilbault said on Wednesday that 400 additional military members are being deployed to eight more facilities in Quebec. The facilities are: Grace Dart, Queen Elizabeth, Berthiaume-Du-Tremblay, Vigi de Mont-Royal, Floralies-de-LaSalle, Saint-Laurent, Argyle and Benjamin-Victor-Rousselot residences.
“This is good news, but we continue to ask for help,” she said.
Over the past week, the government has said that the situation is mostly under control — but not in hard-hit long-term care homes. Some facilities are continuing to struggle with outbreaks and staffing shortages.
While hundreds of health-care professionals and military members are on the ground to bolster staffing in affected centres, Guilbault said they still need more reinforcements. She urged Quebecers to volunteer in nursing homes.
“This remains our national emergency,” she said.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »