Quebec has announced it will be extending restrictions in the province’s coronavirus red zones for another four weeks until Nov. 23.
A partial 28-day lockdown in the province’s two largest cities, Montreal and Quebec City, was set to end Oct. 28.
Quebec Premier François Legault said Monday that while efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus have paid off in the last three weeks, now is not the time to slack off.
“We’ve stabilized the number of new cases, it shows that we’re able to stop the virus when we all do our part” he said. “But 1,000 new cases per day is too much… we have to bring that down.”
In designated red zones gyms, bars and entertainment venues are closed, while restaurants are allowed to provide take out or delivery. Most indoor and outdoor gatherings outside work settings are also banned.
Legault said that financial aid for affected businesses will continue until Nov. 23.
The government will re-assess the situation in two weeks and Legault said some restrictions could then be eased if the daily numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths go down.
“For now, we only need to keep two activities: work and school,” he said. “We need to reduce the number of outbreaks in the workplace.”
To that end, the government will be launching an inspection blitz to enforce the rules in workplace settings.
“Businesses that don’t follow the rules could face sanctions and even closures,” he said.
Earlier in the day, some gym, yoga, dance and martial arts business owners said they intended to reopen their doors on Thursday in defiance of provincial health rules.
In a statement, the group of fitness company owners said the lockdown measures will force them out of business after they made significant investments to comply with health measures during the pandemic.
The group also wanted the government and public health officials to consider them as an asset to the health system and acknowledge their facilities contribute to the population’s overall physical and mental well-being.
Legault said he understood that people’s mental health was at risk, but defended the decision to prolong closures.
“We have to choose the less worst solution,” he said. “I understand that there’s an impact on mental health but the gyms will have to respect the law and police people will assure that.”
Hybrid learning extended to Grade 9 students
As for schools, Legault said the situation was good but he noted a higher number of cases among older high school students.
Grade 9 students will now be alternating between in-class and online learning, every other day. They will be joining Grade 10 and 11 students who have been doing hybrid learning since the beginning of the month.
Legault said the hybrid model would not be adopted for younger students who have lower transmission rates.
“It’s better for the students to be at school 100 per cent of the time,” he said.
Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Association of Teachers which represents some 8,000 teachers in the English sector, said the government’s decision was a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough.
“We’ve been saying this since May, that all of high school should be at 50 per cent,” she said.
Furthermore, Yetman argued that while hybrid learning reduces the number of people in the school at one time, it does nothing to reduce class size.
“So it’s still not what we would like to see but it’s one step closer,” she said, adding that ideally, they would like to see a hybrid model with class sizes reduced by half.
“In other words, you would see half your class on one day, and the next day you would see the other half of your class,” she said.
Yetman said that while the government’s is aware of the teachers’ requests, it is also juggling the requests of school principals, parent associations and other stakeholders.
Since March, there have been more than 100,000 cases in the province. The health crisis has claimed the lives of 6,143 Quebecers.
— With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise, Gloria Henriquez and The Canadian PressView link »