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‘We will close your venue,’ Quebec’s health minister warns bars flouting coronavirus measures

Coronavirus: Quebec health minister says venues will be closed if they don’t respect health rules
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé on Monday expressed disappointment with physical distancing at bars and other venues in the province, stating that venues that don’t enforce public health rules will be forced to close in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. He pointed to surging cases of COVID-19 in the United States as an example of what they don’t want to see happen.

Quebec will not hesitate to shut down businesses that fail to enforce public health directives such as social distancing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the province’s health minister said on Monday.

“If the rules are not respected, we will close your venue,” Christian Dubé said. “I just want to make sure we’re very clear.”

The province is looking at “alternative measures” in the coming days — including boosting police presence — to ensure rules are being respected at places such as bars, beaches and restaurants.

The message comes one day after public health authorities asked customers and staff who frequented a bar on Montreal’s South Shore on June 30 to be tested. There were COVID-19 cases stemming from people who went to Mile Public House that evening.

Quebec Health Minister says he won’t think twice about shutting down bars and restaurants
Quebec Health Minister says he won’t think twice about shutting down bars and restaurants

READ MORE: Public health calls on people to get tested after coronavirus outbreak at Brossard bar

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When it comes to bars and restaurants operating at a reduced capacity across the province, Dubé said the government is watching the situation “very closely.” The government is also considering revoking liquor permits of delinquent bar owners and fining customers who are seen violating public health directives, he added.

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“We will make adjustments so what we saw in the last few days will not happen again,” he said.

Quebec recorded 74 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the case total to 55,937 since the pandemic first began.

Authorities also reported three new deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The province, which remains hardest-hit by the health crisis, has a death toll of 5,577.

The number of hospitalizations is also up, despite a slow decrease in recent weeks. There are 377 patients in hospital, an increase of six from Sunday. Of them, 25 are in intensive care.

READ MORE: As travel increases, Canada boosting presence of health officials at airports, U.S. border

Public health authorities conducted 6,122 tests on Saturday, the last day for which numbers are available.

Quebec has gradually eased restrictions initially implemented to stop the spread of the virus, but authorities ask people to still practice social distancing, wear a mask and to wash their hands.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health, said the goal is not to punish Quebecers but to avoid outbreaks and a spike in cases such as those unfolding in the United States.

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According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead.

“We are asking the public to be careful,” said Arruda.

With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press