Quebecers flouting public health rules aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus will face harsh consequences starting this weekend, the province’s premier said Thursday.
François Legault warned authorities will be cracking down on COVID-19 violations as of Saturday by handing out fines to individuals who are not wearing masks where it is required such as public transit or indoor public spaces.
“I think we are still in a situation that is under control but there is a trend we don’t like,” he said, referring to a recent uptick in cases.
Legault said the majority of Quebecers are abiding by public health guidelines, but it’s “unacceptable” that some are not — and they are putting the elderly and the province’s health network at risk.
“Unfortunately, there is a small minority of irresponsible people who are not following the rules,” he said.
The fines will be more than $50, but Legault said the exact amount will be announced in the coming days by the province’s public security minister following a special cabinet meeting.
Legault said the government’s crackdown will be tougher in areas that have surpassed the first level of the province’s COVID-19 regional alert system.
Quebec introduced a four-level, colour-coded system Tuesday — green for vigilance, yellow for an early warning, orange for moderate alert and red for maximum alert.
Most of the province remains in the green or vigilance level. Quebec City, the Eastern Townships, Laval and Outaouais regions are currently classified in the yellow zone.
“In the yellow zone, the first thing people will notice is there will be more inspections,” said Health Minister Christian Dubé.
The decision comes after repeated calls by both the government and public health for Quebecers to exercise more caution in their day-to-day activities to stave off a potential second wave of the virus.
They say private events, such as dinner parties, have been linked to an increase in new infections.
The province reported 188 new cases and two deaths Thursday. Quebec has now reported 64,244 confirmed cases and 5,773 deaths.
Long lines at testing clinics
When asked about recent reports of long lineups for tests, Dubé advised booking appointments instead of opting for walk-in clinics when possible.
He said the province was aware more Quebecers would look to be tested as schools reopen, but he admitted they didn’t expect such an influx.
Dubé said the province is looking at increasing the number of screening centres and creating an online system to book appointments.
In Montreal’s West Island, some people said this week they stood outside in lines for hours in hopes of being tested.
The City of Laval is also adding two screening clinics to meet high demand.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »