Quebec will not shut down bars again for now, even as the province continues to see a sustained increase in new novel coronavirus cases over the past week.
Premier François Legault said he consulted with public health authorities and that the recent surge in new COVID-19 infections appear to be stemming from private parties and not from bars.
“We will continue to supervise and follow the situation in bars,” he told a crowd of reporters Friday. “It’s very important that employees in bars wear a mask and visors.”
The province will also carry out inspections in bars over the weekend to ensure public health directives are being enforced, added Legault. Masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces beginning Saturday.
Legault also urged Quebecers to keep private gatherings at their homes to a maximum of 10 people. He said this is an important reminder as the province’s annual two-week construction holiday begins.
“It’s not the time to do this,” he said. “We have to be very careful so that we do not have to be reconfined.”
The province was considering closing bars after at least 30 cases were tied to nine different establishments in Montreal. Public health authorities have asked people who have visited or worked in bars since July 1 to be tested for the virus.
However, the director of Quebec public health said inspections carried out in bars show that restrictions are mostly being enforced and respected. Dr. Horacio Arruda added on Friday that the majority of new cases stem from before the province tightened the rules for bars.
“It’s not necessarily bars that are generators,” he said, adding that even if they are considered to be at higher risk for the virus.
The decision to keep bars open comes as Quebec reported 141 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 57,142. Legault said 97 of those new cases originated in the health-care network. The province has seen its new daily infections top 100 since July 11.
The health crisis has killed 5,647 to date after one more death was recorded from the previous day.
While Quebec has seen an increase in the number of daily new cases over the past week, hospitalizations have continued to drop.
There are 260 patients in hospital as of Friday, a decrease of 17. The number of people in intensive care has dropped by four to 16.
The province says it conducted 14,952 tests Wednesday, the last day for which data is available.
Higher recovery numbers
Public health authorities are also reporting a total of 49,939 recovered cases since the pandemic first bore down on the province — a significant boost from the previous day.
The Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) says it is using a new way to calculate recoveries as of Friday because the previous method resulted in “significant underestimations” when it came to recording recovered cases.
“As of July 17, as in other Canadian provinces, a new algorithm is applied retroactively for cases without the recovery status in the data system and who are not currently hospitalized or deceased,” INSPQ said in a statement on its website.
“The indicator resulting from the application of this algorithm makes it possible to estimate the number of people considered recovered for whom information has not been entered into the data system.”
Those people are presumed to no longer play a part in the active transmission of the virus in the Quebec population, according to INSPQ.
Quebec remains the province with the highest number of cases and deaths attributable to COVID-19 in the country.
— With files from the Canadian Press