Quebec is extending emergency measures for three regions as the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to gain steam in the province.
Premier François Legault announced the move Tuesday, saying schools and non-essential businesses will remain closed in the Quebec City, Outaouais and Chaudière-Appalaches areas until April 25.
“The situation is serious and could continue to worsen,” Legault told reporters.
The rules, which had previously applied only in parts of Chaudière-Appalaches and Outaouais, will be expanded to cover the entirety of those two regions starting Wednesday.
The latest decision comes as Quebec faces rising numbers of new cases and hospitalizations related to the health crisis over the past week. Legault went on to say that “with the variant, no area is immune” but the province will not tighten restrictions in Montreal and the surrounding areas — for now.
“We have two big months ahead,” he admitted.
He also addressed young Quebecers who are fed up with public health orders following two nights of anti-curfew protests in Montreal. The province rolled back curfew to 8 p.m. in the city over the weekend to limit the spread of the virus.
Legault said he understands that people are tired of restrictions after 13 long months, but encouraged them to hang on a little longer.
“I’m not judging you. On the contrary, we must recognize all the efforts you made in the last year,” he said.
“But more and more young people are getting sick so please respect the rules to protect you.”
When asked about the vandalism that occurred during an anti-curfew demonstration, Legault said most Quebecers support the province’s public health measures and “don’t want to see that.”
“I think it’s a very, very small minority of Quebecers doing that,” Legault said. “For now, I think the situation is under control and if it happens again, police people will be present.”
With the presence of variants, the premier also added that Quebec can’t return to some kind of normality until all adults who want a vaccine receive their first dose. The province can’t fully reopen just because the majority of seniors have gotten their first shot, according to Legault.
The government is still on track to administer a first dose to any adult who wants one by the beginning of the summer.
Legault said lifting restrictions will be done gradually.
“I’m not saying all the measures will go away on the evening of June 24,” Legault said.
— With files from The Canadian Press