Quebec is strongly urging people to stay home after reporting 1,364 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday in a record high for the province hit hardest by the pandemic.
Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters in Quebec City that the second wave of the novel coronavirus is different and evolving quickly, which is why the government has rolled out restrictions to cap the spread of the respiratory illness.
Younger people are contracting the virus and community transmission is gaining traction compared to the spring, leading to a surge in new infections, deaths and hospitalizations over the last week, he said.
“Let’s get the message through: people need to stay home,” Dubé said.
Quebec’s record high in new cases brings its total to 81,014 — the highest in the country. On Tuesday, Montreal, with 442 new cases, and the Montérégie region south of the city, with 223, accounted for nearly half of the new infections. Quebec City reported 201 new infections.
“We are close to 500 outbreaks right now,” said Dubé. “You have to understand that an active outbreak will stay for at least two weeks.”
There are 17 additional deaths, but authorities say three of them occurred in the last 24 hours. Fourteen fatalities have been retroactively added to the province’s death toll.
Two deaths previously linked to the virus have been removed from the total, bringing it to 5,899 deaths to date.
Hospitalizations also continued to climb to a total of 397, an increase of 36 from the previous day. Five more patients are in intensive care. As of Tuesday, 67 people are in intensive care.
Dubé said the soar in hospital numbers is putting pressure on the health-care network, which he has repeatedly described as fragile.
Young Quebecers who contract the virus may not become ill, he said, but the virus is spreading throughout the province and impacting hospitals.
“Don’t take the risk,” he said. “Please don’t test the hospital system.”
Opposition says government unprepared for second wave
During Tuesday afternoon’s question period at the National Assembly, the government came under fire from opposition parties.
They accuse the government of being unprepared for the pandemic’s second wave and of being reactive to new developments, rather than proactive.
Québec solidaire MNA Christine Labrie wondered why it took so long for the government to introduce hybrid teaching.
“It is a good way to facilitate social distancing in the classrooms. I was asking for this, like, in April,” she said.
Liberal leader Dominique Anglade criticized the government for spending the summer promoting an infrastructure bill it later abandoned.
“They should have spent the whole summer preparing inner schools, inner testing systems in the hospitals,” she said.
Anglade said Quebec fared the worst during the first wave and continues to be the worst during the second wave.
Premier François Legault shot back, asking Anglade what she would have done differently given the circumstances and said she was just “whining.”
Legault was reprimanded by the Speaker of the House and told to watch his language.
In response to the criticism, Dubé said he cannot control whether people follow the measures or not.
— With files from the Canadian Press and Global’s Raquel Fletcher