Quebec mulls COVID-19 checkpoints at Ontario border as March break looms

Quebec Deputy Premier and Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec is mulling the implementation of stricter rules and police checkpoints to limit non-essential travel and curb the spread of COVID-19 as the upcoming March break hangs over the province.

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said Wednesday that the government will announce measures soon, adding that discussions are underway to determine what kind of restrictions — including potential roadblocks at the Ontario border — can be rolled out during the upcoming school break.

“We are currently evaluating the possibility of putting more restrictive measures for the break,” she told reporters at the provincial legislature. “There is nothing decided, but there are several things that are under consideration.”

Guilbault said the province is making “pragmatic decisions on a daily basis” with public health authorities depending on the evolution of the pandemic. The government is also in “continuous” contact with Ontario and New Brunswick, she added.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier Wednesday that it’s up to the provinces to decide on appropriate measures at their borders.

Read more: Quebec reports first two cases of COVID-19 South African variant

The possibility of temporary measures during the school break comes as Quebec is worried about reversing the progress made in recent weeks to bring down the number of new cases, deaths and hospitalizations linked to the novel coronavirus.

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Guilbault also echoed Premier François Legault’s concerns about the detection of COVID-19 variants in Quebec. As of Tuesday, there are 11 cases of new variants, including the two cases of the South African variant — a first for the province.

“The variants are a source of concern,” Guilbault said.

Last week, the deputy premier ruled out police checkpoints despite calls from all three opposition parties, which expressed concerns about limiting the spread of the virus across Quebec.

Guilbault said at the time that public health authorities don’t recommend implementing roadblocks to prevent people from moving from one region to the next.

She also said that police officers have their hands full with enforcing the nightly curfew — which was implemented as part of lockdown measures — and ensuring travellers respect quarantine.

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Quebec has eased restrictions for six regions, which represents roughly 10 per cent of the population. They have reopened considerably more than the rest of province, with cinemas and dining rooms in restaurants being given the green light to operate again.

In the meantime, Montreal, Quebec City and other areas that have been harder hit by the health crisis in recent months remain designated red zones. Non-essential businesses have been allowed to reopen as of Monday, but restaurants, gyms and other entertainment venues remain off-limits.

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With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher and The Canadian Press

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