Montrealers must follow public health directives and quit socializing as the city enters a red alert status to contain the second wave of COVID-19, officials announced Tuesday.
Mayor Valérie Plante stressed the tightened restrictions are difficult but necessary as the number of novel coronavirus cases and hospitalizations climb. Montreal saw 1,669 new infections over the past week and there are 61 people hospitalized in the region, including 17 in intensive care.
“We won’t hide it, it’s not an easy period,” she said, adding now is the time to support local restaurants and merchants.
After six months, Plante said she understands people are tired of the virus, but everyone has to make sacrifices to protect those who are vulnerable. This means no gathering in parks over the next month and cancelling Thanksgiving dinner plans, she added.
“We need to be responsible. We need to share the message: it is not the time for this,” she said.
The Quebec government has placed the Greater Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudières-Appalaches areas in the maximum alert level starting Thursday.
The partial lockdown, which will be in effect Oct. 1-28, comes with ramped-up controls to limit the spread of the virus, including shutting down bars and prohibiting socializing with people outside the home.
Officials say the priority is to keep schools open, protect at-risk seniors and other vulnerable Quebecers, and prevent the health network from being overwhelmed.
Montreal public health director Mylène Drouin said Tuesday some of the hardest-hit areas in the city are the Parc-Extension, Outremont, Montreal North, Centre-Sud and Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhoods as well as downtown around Concordia University. But all parts of the region are seeing a rise in cases, she warned.
The community transmission of COVID-19 is especially spreading in workplaces between colleagues in a social context, she added. Workers are asked to practise physical distancing and wear masks in lunch spaces or during a carpool.
“We’re asking you to be more vigilant,” she said.
A new social media campaign is also being launched to get young people to answer the phone as authorities struggle to contact individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. The four-week initiative is dubbed “don’t ignore the call.”
Drouin also said people in the 18-34 age bracket are testing positive at disproportionately higher rates than are older people but are less likely to get tested.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »