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Quebec warns more coronavirus restrictions possible as new cases top 1,000

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Recent COVID-19 numbers in Quebec show the ‘situation is really critical,’ premier says' Coronavirus: Recent COVID-19 numbers in Quebec show the ‘situation is really critical,’ premier says
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on Friday that the current COVID-19 case numbers in the province show that the “situation is really critical,” adding that it is “urgent to reduce our social contacts.” Quebec reported 1,052 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.

Quebec has surpassed one its highest novel coronavirus daily tallies since the spring with more than 1,000 new cases reported Friday.

Premier François Legault urged citizens to exercise more caution as the uptick continues, saying more restrictions may be implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“It’s urgent to reduce our social contacts,” he told reporters Friday. “We might need to close other activities in the coming days. We have to adopt new habits.”

The warning comes as a partial lockdown in underway three regions, including Montreal and Quebec City — the province’s two largest cities. Bars, cinemas, theatres, libraries and the dining rooms of restaurants in those areas are closed until at least Oct. 28.

“At 1,000 cases, we’re thinking we might have to do more,” Legault said, but remain tight-lipped on details.

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Read more: Quebecers confused over new measures during first day of province’s partial lockdown

Since the pandemic started, Quebec has been the province hardest hit by the virus. To date, there have been 76,273 cases. There are more than 61,000 recoveries.

The province also saw seven additional deaths attributable to COVID-19 on Friday, but authorities say they occurred in September. To date, the death toll stands at 5,857.

Click to play video 'Restaurant owners cry foul over dining room closures' Restaurant owners cry foul over dining room closures
Restaurant owners cry foul over dining room closures

Hospitalizations also continued to climb Friday with 302 patients, an increase of 27 from the previous day. Of them, 49 are in intensive care.

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As the upward trend continues, Legault said Friday that his priority is to keep students in class but warned people need to abide by the rules to not put pressure on schools and a fragile health-care system.

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“For schools, for me, it’s the last thing I want to close,” he said. “I will do everything I can to keep schools open.”

He admitted there has been confusion regarding the new restrictions, but called on Quebecers to avoid trying to find ways around the rules and to instead limit their contacts with other people.

“You can go out, but keep two metres from other people,” he said. “That’s it, that’s all.”

Quebec provincial police launch checkpoints

As Quebec mulls over expanding restrictions in hard-hit areas, the provincial police force launched its own “awareness” operation on Friday.

The Sûreté du Québec said the initiative is aimed at discouraging people in red alert zones from travelling for non-essential reasons to areas that are under lower alert levels.

READ MORE: What’s allowed and what’s not in Quebec’s coronavirus red zones

Officers will be stopping drivers on highways, but police spokesman Sgt. Louis-Philippe Bibeau said they are not setting up roadblocks like in the spring.

Quebecers living in maximum alert zones are discouraged from traveling to other regions unless necessary. They are prohibited from eating at restaurants.

Helping hand for cultural sector

As the pandemic’s hold tightens on the province, the government also announced additional financial measures to help Quebec’s cultural scene.

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In designated coronavirus red zones, theatres museums and other cultural businesses were ordered to close Thursday to prevent the spread of the virus.

The province is investing $50 million to cover a portion of the costs of lost tickets sales from Oct.1 to the end of March 2021.

Culture Minister Nathalie Roy says the initiative targets organizations that present shows in the performing arts, music, variety, literature and storytelling fields.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Quebec announces new financial measures to aid cultural sector amid pandemic' Coronavirus: Quebec announces new financial measures to aid cultural sector amid pandemic
Coronavirus: Quebec announces new financial measures to aid cultural sector amid pandemic

With files from the Canadian Press