MONTREAL -- Experts from the COVID-STOP Collective are calling on the Quebec government to close schools and immediately lock Greater Montreal down.

The group made up of physicians and other health-care specialists want the same measures that have just been decreed for Levis, Quebec City and Gatineau to be applied to the Montreal urban community, which for them includes the Lower Laurentians and part of the Lanaudiere region.

"This is a cry from the field," said Dr. Vincent Bouchard-Dechene, a specialist in internal medicine assigned to the Intensive Care Unit at Notre-Dame Hospital, at a news conference Friday morning.

"Several doctors are part of this collective and those who work in the hospitals see that the variants of the virus causing COVID-19 are taking over," said Dr. Amir Khadir.

"They're seeing a lot of young people with no pre-existing medical conditions in their intensive care units, as well as patients who have been infected by toddlers in daycare, a situation that didn't happen during the first wave of COVID-19 last spring," added Dr. Marie-Michelle Bellon, an internal medicine specialist assigned to the COVID-19 unit at Notre-Dame Hospital.

The group's request is to act more intensively now, to avoid much of the suffering that can follow repeated confinement over a longer period.

"Half-measures make the problem worse and don't solve anything," said Khadir.

By delivering a hard blow now, the return to normalcy will be faster, they argue.

The 12-day containment period that has just been introduced in Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau is "insufficient," according to Khadir.

He said that experts believe that a period of one month is the minimum to regain control of the situation.

To accompany the break suggested to the government, the collective suggests the massive use of self-administered screening tests, increased ventilation measures in enclosed spaces and a more effective tracing of cases of COVID-19 infection.


-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.