Quebec is expanding its red zone designation to the Montérégie, Centre-du-Québec and Capitale-Nationale areas as the novel coronavirus takes hold in different regions, the province’s premier announced Tuesday.
François Legault said the tightened restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 will come into effect for those areas on Friday. The highest alert level is already in place in the province’s largest cities, including Montreal.
“There’s no magic recipe,” he told reporters in Montreal. “We have to reduce our contacts.”
The province reported 815 new infections Tuesday, bringing its caseload to 87,791. It is the lowest daily number of new cases since the end of September.
Legault said it is too early to celebrate the drop in the new cases compared to previous weeks, but he did say it shows partial lockdown measures are helping to stem the tide of COVID-19. All Quebecers must avoid private social gatherings, where the risk of transmission is high, he added.
“This would mean our efforts are paying off but the virus is spreading in other regions,” he said, adding the respiratory illness will be here for months.
Quebec’s public health director echoed the sentiment, saying the rules are helping but it is too early to know if the partial lockdown will be lifted in red zones at the end of the month.
“It’s too soon to say what will happen Oct. 28,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda.
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in less-populated areas such as the Saguenay, where officials are reporting an outbreak of 25 cases at a long-term care home. The alert level for Saguenay is being raised to orange, Legault said.
Quebec also recorded five additional deaths Tuesday, including three that occurred in the last 24 hours. To date, the health crisis has killed 5,970 people.
Authorities also reported an uptick in hospitalizations. There are 11 more patients in hospital, for a total of 468.
Of them, 85 people are in intensive care units across the province — an increase of 10 from the previous day.
The province says 20,386 tests were carried out Sunday. There have been 2,677,474 tests to date.
Legault bristles at Trudeau’s suggestion for long-term care homes
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he plans on speaking to provincial premiers about implementing standardized rules for the level of care in long-term care homes during the pandemic.
“This is a discussion that needs to be had with the premiers,” he said. “I don’t think that seniors should be better protected in certain regions than others so we need to work together to offer quality care to all seniors and I will certainly be discussing this with the province.”
Long-term care homes have been hard hit by the health crisis, especially in Quebec. The pandemic has shone a light on the conditions of some of those facilities and ongoing challenges, such as staffing shortages.
Legault, for his part, bristled at the notion. He said Trudeau is “playing with fire” given the recent demands for federal health-care transfers to the provinces and territories to help offset COVID-19 costs.
“I don’t think the federal government should not get involved with the management of long-term care homes,” Legault said.
— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly and the Canadian Press