Quebec is giving the green light to the federal novel coronavirus exposure application in the province nearly one month after officials said they would not follow Ottawa’s lead.
Health Minister Christian Dubé announced the about-face Tuesday as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. The province is working out the final details, he added.
“The simple answer is that yes, we will have the application,” he told reporters.
Last month, Dubé said the province, oppositions parties and the public had concerns over the “COVID Alert” app launched by the Canadian government in July to mitigate the spread of the virus. The app notifies someone when they have been in close contact with a person who tests positive for the virus and has shared their results.
On Tuesday, Premier François Legault also defended his government’s plan to implement restrictions in Montreal and other regions as they enter the province’s highest maximum alert level.
“We are capable of breaking this second wave,” he said, adding the province had to act as cases rise.
The red zone designation comes with additional restrictions to stem the tide of the virus, including prohibiting social gatherings and closing bars, theatres and cinemas. The new measures comes into effect on Thursday for a 28-day period.
When asked about why some establishments are being shut down while others can stay open, Legault said people tend to spend more time in restaurants and other places compared to retail stores.
“In a business, there is less chance that you will be in contact with another person for more than 10 minutes,” he said.
“On the other hand, in a theatre, if there are 250 of us, even if we have had masks until we sit down, there is still a risk after an hour or two. Same thing in restaurants. Same thing in bars.”
Businesses forced to close will see additional financial help in the coming days, according to Legault. The exact measures will be announced this week.
Legault also stressed the partial lockdown is to limit citizens’ exposure to the respiratory illness and he called specifically on young Quebecers to abide by the public health directives.
“The solution is in your hands,” he said.
No changes to school measures for now
As sweeping closures loom in Montreal and Quebec City, officials said they will not implement additional measures in schools in designated red zones — but that could change.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health, said there are no plans to make masks mandatory in classrooms at the moment. As it stands, only students in Grades 5 and above and staff must wear masks in common spaces outside the classroom, such as hallways.
One of the difficulties, Arruda noted, is how to enforce young children to wear a mask for eight hours every day. But public health hasn’t ruled out making such a recommendation, he added.
“We are following the situation day by day,” Arruda said.
When asked about the possible risk of children facing prolonged exposure to the virus in confined spaces like school, Legault reiterated the priority is to keep students in the classroom as much as possible during the pandemic.
He said kids aren’t at high risk for COVID-19.
“Young people must learn. Young people need to socialize,” he said. “So young people must be in school.”
Hospitalizations spike in Quebec
Quebec reported 799 new cases Tuesday as the health crisis once again bears down on the province hardest hit by the pandemic.
Seven more deaths linked to COVID-19 were also recorded. Health authorities say two people died in the last 24-hour period, while the other five deaths occurred earlier in the month.
The caseload, the highest in the country, stands at 73,450. The death toll is now 5,833.
Hospitalizations jumped by 35 from the previous day to 247. Of those patients, four more are in intensive care for a total of 41.
The number of tests given on Sunday, the latest day for which that information is available, is 26,366. To date, 2,309,387 tests have been administered.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »