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Quebec works to contain jail outbreak as overall COVID-19 trends deemed ‘encouraging’

Saint-Jérôme prison is shown in Saint-Jérôme, Que., north of Montreal, Sunday, January 24, 2021. An outbreak of COVID-19 has been reported at the prison. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

A COVID-19 testing operation was underway at a jail north of Montreal on Sunday following an outbreak that has infected more than 60 people.

A spokeswoman for the regional health board for the Laurentians said that, as of Saturday, 45 inmates and 17 workers had tested positive at the St-Jérôme detention centre.

Melanie Laroche said inmates in certain blocks of the provincially run facility were tested in the middle of last week, but officials decided on Friday to expand screening to the entire jail.

She said testing of all the inmates wrapped up on Saturday, while employee testing is expected to be complete by Monday.

READ MORE: Demonstrators call for end to Quebec’s curfew as advocates ask Superior Court to exempt homeless

“We are also continuing our investigation and our support in the implementation of health measures,” she wrote in an email.

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The news came as the overall COVID-19 portrait in Quebec continued to trend in a positive direction, according to the province’s health minister.

Quebec reported 1,457 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, as well as 41 additional deaths linked to the virus.

Hospitalizations declined for the fifth straight day, down by 56 to 1,327. Of those patients, 219 were in intensive care, an increase of three.

READ MORE: Quebec reports 1,457 new COVID-19 cases and 41 deaths as hospitalizations drop

Christian Dubé said on Twitter that the numbers were “encouraging,” but said Quebecers need to maintain their efforts to reduce cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Quebec Premier François Legault has credited the recent drop in new COVID-19 infections to the nightly curfew which came into effect two weeks ago.

The curfew, which is in place between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., was added to a number of other health orders imposed in recent weeks, including asking people to work from home, banning gatherings and shutting non-essential businesses.

A total of 253,633 Quebecers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 9,478 have died since the pandemic began.

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Coronavirus: Province not discarding extending curfew – Jan 21, 2021