Montreal, Laval going back to 8 p.m. curfew while four other Quebec areas extend lockdown
MONTREAL -- Quebec is prolonging an existing lockdown in four areas, saying community spread of COVID-19 in them is rampant, while also bringing back an 8 p.m. curfew in Montreal and Laval "until further notice."
Both measures take effect Sunday, Premier François Legault said in a press conference Thursday.
The four places with the prolonged lockdown are Quebec City, Lévis, Beauce, and Gatineau, which have been reporting record highs of COVID-19 cases.
Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau were put into a 10-day lockdown last week, and five cities in the Beauce area, in Chaudiere-Appalaches, were added to the group on Monday.
Their current regime of rules was set to expire Sunday. Now it will be renewed until April 18.
Curfew in those places will be at 8 p.m. and schools and non-essential businesses will remain closed until the 18th.
"When we say that it's in the community, it's everywhere and it's in all age groups" in those cities, Legault said.
"The situation is serious in these places."
MONTREAL AND LAVAL STABLE, BUT 'IT'S COMING'
The Montreal and Laval change is more of a preventative measure, Legault said. Cases seem relatively stable right now in those cities, but the province believes that won't last.
In talking "with the doctors and experts of public health... everybody is pretty unanimous in saying 'it's coming in Montreal,'" Legault said.
With the highly contagious variants, authorities are also very worried about what would happen if outbreaks took hold in the province's biggest metropolitan area the way they're doing now in Quebec City.
"Montreal and Laval are very densely populated, and that means that if it starts to explode, it could very quickly create big problems in our hospitals," Legault said.
The curfew change has no forecasted end date, but it is the only one announced Thursday for Montreal and Laval. Schools will stay open for now in both cities.
When asked why not, Legault said one of the very top priorities is to keep kids in physical schools as long as possible.
"As they say, we can't... start shovelling snow that hasn't yet fallen from the sky," he said.
Montreal is "stable" and "before closing down the schools, it has to be serious," he said.
"Now we're bringing back an earlier curfew, but the schools, if we can save those even just for another week or two, it is so important right now."
However, he later said it was "not inevitable" they'll have to close, and that it's currently impossible to predict whether schools will be able to stay open until June.
RECORD CASELOADS RIGHT NOW, ESPECIALLY IN QUEBEC CITY
The province saw a serious spike in its COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with 1,609 new infections, the biggest daily increase in weeks.
Quebec City alone reported 436 new cases, its highest daily count ever. The city, with less than a third the population of Montreal, had more cases than Montreal.
Several new province-wide rules were already announced this week. Quebecers will now need to wear masks at all workplaces and while doing outdoor activities.
Another region that should be on guard for changes coming soon is the Eastern Townships, Legault said.
"For the past few weeks, we had had very few cases [there], but for a few days now, there is a very significant increase in the caseload," he said.
"So the Eastern Townships, for us, is under high surveillance. Public health is looking keeping a close eye on the situation from hour to hour" and the province can't "exclude" the idea of turning it back into a red zone.
Legault opened up the press conference by speaking about people's anger around the back-and-forth in the rules, saying he knows the public is tired and frustrated.
But there are good reasons to both tighten and loosen restrictions, he said.
"When we end the lockdown it's to help with people's mental health," he said. Deciding how strict to be is "a balance that is fragile."
He said that while public health offers recommendations, if people are angry about the restrictions, "there's one person you can blame, and it's me."
Quoting former premier Bernard Landry, he said that "if you want to be loved, don't go into politics -- buy yourself a dog."
LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: Is there any science behind the 8pm curfew? Dr. Mitch Shulman on that: