MONTREAL -- Montreal has declared a local state of emergency at the request of Quebec public health officials.

Mayor Valerie Plante said the decision to declare the emergency was to give the city more power to enact special measures aimed at dealing with Montreal's homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plante called the declaration, which was effective as of 4 p.m. Friday, "an important step" in the city's fight against COVID-19.

The state of emergency declaration also gives the city the ability to spend money more easily as well as the authority to order police and firefighters to enforce public health directives, Plante said.

"At this moment, the most vulnerable in our society need us," she told reporters. "The situation in day centres and shelters is very difficult, so it was important for us to find rapid and efficient solutions."

The city plans to open outdoor day centres and shelters with fewer beds for the city's homeless.

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Plante also wanted to dispel concerns the city was about to restrict the movement of citizens.

"The city is not under lock down nor is it in quarantine," Plante said. "If this happens one day, it'll be at the request of the Government of Quebec and the Health Department, and if it happens, it will be done in a coherent and orderly way -- we're not at that point at all."

Mylene Drouin, Montreal's director of public health, also said that more emergency measures for the general population of Montreal to try to slow down the spread of COVID-19 would be announced Saturday.

While she would not specify what those measures will be, she did say that it would expand the powers of police and municipal authorities to ensure that people are following public-health directives during the pandemic.

In an earlier statement, provincial health officials said that under section 42 of Quebec's Civil Protection Act, a local state of emergency would allow Montreal to "quickly adopt measures to reduce the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks among homeless people."

Quebec Premier Francois Legault had said earlier Friday that discussions between the province and the city about a possible state of emergency were ongoing.

Last week, the province declared a public health emergency to be able to deploy extraordinary measures to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

- The Canadian Press contributed to this report