Quebecers can “make a big difference” in the coming days to change the course of the novel coronavirus pandemic as cases continue to rise, the province’s health minister said Thursday.
Christian Dubé said the province has been reporting an average of nearly 300 new infections per day over the past week.
“It’s everywhere that we have to be careful,” he said.
The public must exercise caution over the weekend, he said. Citizens have the chance to ensure the alert level is not raised to orange, which calls for tighter controls to limit the spread of COVID-19. Dubé did warn Montreal, Quebec City and Bas Saint-Laurent are inching closer to a higher alert level.
“This is not the time to take advantage of the weekend to have parties and gatherings without respecting the measures,” he said.
As it stands, eight regions are currently in the “early warning” yellow zone but the government isn’t ready to implement restrictions, according to Dubé.
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However, Dubé did announce an additional rule for restaurants and microbrewies by banning the sale of alcohol after midnight. Earlier this week, the government banned bars from serving food after midnight saying it was being done to skirt the law to serve alcohol.
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The province, which has been the hardest hit by the health crisis, reported 251 new cases in the last 24 hours.
Health authorities say, however, that a total of 499 infections were reported Thursday after hundreds of cases were included from earlier in the week — including more than 200 in Montreal. The regional public health director said there was a backlog in the tally.
As a result, the caseload jumped to 66,356. There have been more than 58,000 recoveries.
READ MORE: Montreal reports 295 new coronavirus cases but majority stem from earlier in the week
Quebec reported three additional deaths linked to COVID-19 — two of which occurred in the last 24 hours. One death occurred between Sept. 10 and 15.
The health crisis has claimed the lives of 5,791 Quebecers to date.
The number of hospitalizations also increased, by six to 136. Of them, 29 patients are intensive care — an increase of three from the previous day.
In Quebec, 24,112 tests were administered Tuesday. To date, the province has given 1,979,527 tests.
Dubé said the government is also working to address delays in testing after long lineups were reported in Montreal’s West Island and on the city’s south shore.
The province has boosted its daily testing numbers in recent weeks, but Dubé said he is working with regional public health authorities to ensure Quebecers are not turned away from screening sites.
“It is not acceptable and we will find solutions in the coming days,” he said.
— With files from the Canadian Press