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Quebec won’t roll out COVID-19 checkpoints to curb travel between regions as reopening looms

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Opposition parties question logic behind Legault’s decision to loosen restrictions' Coronavirus: Opposition parties question logic behind Legault’s decision to loosen restrictions
WATCH: On Monday Feb. 9, stores, hair salons and museums in Quebec will be allowed to operate again. The government announced it was a first step to a slow re-opening in the province. But as Global’s Raquel Fletcher reports, there are many questions about the right way to do this. – Feb 3, 2021

Quebec will not be setting up police checkpoints to limit travel as some regions prepare for certain restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 to be lifted next week.

Despite calls from the opposition, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said that public health authorities don’t recommend implementing roadblocks to prevent people from moving from one area to the next.

“Our police officers are at the moment already very, very busy with other measures,” she told reporters Wednesday.

Guilbault specifically pointed to the police’s enforcement of the nightly curfew, which was introduced last month as part of lockdown measures. Police also have their hands full with ensuring travellers are respecting quarantine, she added.

READ MORE: Quebec reopens non-essential businesses but curfew maintained

The government is loosening restrictions for six regions, which represents roughly 10 per cent of the population as of next week. They will reopen considerably more than the rest of Quebec, with cinemas and dining rooms in restaurants being given the green light to operate again.

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Montreal, Quebec City and other areas that have been harder hit by the health crisis in recent months will remain designated red zones. Non-essential businesses are allowed to reopen, but restaurants, gyms and other entertainment venues will remain closed.

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All three opposition parties, however, have voiced concerns about the latest reopening plan and limiting travel between regions — especially as a school break looms.

The Opposition Liberals said residents from red zones should be blocked from visiting orange zones, such as the Gaspe peninsula or the Saguenay region, to eat at restaurants or to watch movies in cinemas.

“There should be roadblocks, restrictions from one area to another,” party leader Dominique Anglade said.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Quebec Premier Legault says spring break still happening, but warns not to travel' Coronavirus: Quebec Premier Legault says spring break still happening, but warns not to travel
Coronavirus: Quebec Premier Legault says spring break still happening, but warns not to travel – Feb 2, 2021

Guilbault maintained that inter-regional travel is still strongly discouraged by the government. People should only be moving from region to the next for essential regions such as work, she added.

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The head of the Parti Québécois also called for similar measures, saying that provincial police should be able to hand out tickets to people heading from hard-hit areas to reopened regions. Paul St-Pierre Plamondon also urged the government to ban Quebecers living in red zones from renting chalets in orange zones.

Guilbault maintained that people are allowed to go to their cottages or chalets in orange zones, but that they must stay within their family bubble and not frequent stores in the area.

Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois suggested that police checkpoints are one solution, but the government could also look at rolling out systematic testing for health-care workers travelling from a region to another.

“One thing is sure, the status quo is not possible,” he said. “And it’s not prudent to have absolutely no way to control the movement of the virus across the Quebec territory.”

Read more: Quebec’s coronavirus hospitalizations continue to drop as province adds 1,053 new cases, 37 deaths

With files from The Canadian Press

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