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Quebec asks citizens to stop social gatherings for 28 days to ‘break’ second coronavirus wave

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Quebec health authorities ask residents to limit social gatherings for 28 days' Coronavirus: Quebec health authorities ask residents to limit social gatherings for 28 days
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé asked Quebecers during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing to limit their social gatherings for 28 days “to break the second wave” after a rise in reported cases and asked residents to collaborate with health authorities in case investigation and contact tracing.

Quebec is asking all citizens to limit their social gatherings for 28 days as the number of novel coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to surge amid the second wave of the pandemic.

“It’s for a month. It’s not permanent,” said Health Minister Christian Dubé on Friday. “We’re asking you for a month of effort to break the second wave.”

The plea comes as the province surpassed a grim milestone of 70,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Health authorities reported 637 new infections Friday, marking one of the highest single-day tallies in months.

The government has also raised the alert level to orange for the entire Greater Montreal area, including the north and south shores. The designation calls for moderate alert and tighter restrictions for 82 municipalities.

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Dubé said the evolving situation in Montreal, which has been the epicentre of the virus’s outbreak in Canada, remains worrying as the second wave of the virus begins.

“We are making these changes because positive cases, outbreaks and hospitalizations are on the rise in the regions,” Dubé told reporters.

Quebec has not yet placed any regions in the red zone, the highest alert level which calls for stricter controls, but Dubé stressed everyone — regardless of where they live — must do their part to limit the spread of the virus and cap community transmission.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Health minister set 28-day challenge as Greater Montreal area moves into orange alert zone' Coronavirus: Health minister set 28-day challenge as Greater Montreal area moves into orange alert zone
Coronavirus: Health minister set 28-day challenge as Greater Montreal area moves into orange alert zone

This means cancelling social outings such as dinners, parties and barbecues, he said, in order to avoid another surge in cases and a possible second lockdown. The government is not planning on closing bars or restaurants for now.

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“If we take it one day at a time like this, I think we can truly make a difference,” he said.

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Quebecers can also still dine at restaurants with members from the same household, according to Dubé, but he cautions they should use their judgment.

“I think there is no problem going to a restaurant. I say if you are a family, a family of four and then want to go to a restaurant, there is no problem either,” he said. “I think, that’s it, that you have to be able to find that balance.”

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He also added the government is not planning on closing bars or restaurants for now, partly to avoid driving people to hold more private events.

The province, which has been the hardest hit by the pandemic, has seen an uptick in most COVID-19 indicators in recent weeks.

The number of hospitalizations has grown over the past week, with 15 new patients in hospital on Friday, for a total of 199.

The health crisis has killed 5,814 Quebecers to date — representing more than half of the country’s death toll.

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Please cooperate with contact tracing, minister pleads

Quebec’s latest data shows that 36,000 tests were administered on Wednesday, which Dubé said is good news because it will help move investigations forward.

However, authorities are asking the public to pick up the phone because it has been difficult to carry out contact tracing in the event someone has been exposed to COVID-19.

From now on, public health will be displayed as part of caller identification in hopes that more people will respond to their phone calls.

“We need your collaboration,” said Dubé. “It’s very important.”

When it comes to screening for the virus, Dubé said more than 5,000 people have answered the government’s plea to assist them with contact tracing and testing.

Earlier this week, Quebec asked health-care professionals such as audiologists and dental hygienists to lend a helping hand.