MONTREAL -- A Quebec City gym that has come under fire by the premier for not following public health guidelines is now responsible for 141 COVID-19 cases.

The number is growing quickly: at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, it was at 120. Just three hours later, the total count stood at 141.

Mélanie Otis, a spokesperson for the Quebec City health district, said those cases at the Mega Fitness Gym are also now linked to outbreaks in at least 20 workplaces. 

The gym was ordered shut down Wednesday after it was revealed there were 68 positive cases attributed to lax sanitary measures in the building. 

“It's no big surprise to us that the number went from 68 to 120, because several people were not observing sanitary measures,” another spokesperson, Mathieu Boivin, said earlier Thursday, adding that officials believe the number will go even higher. 

The gym reopened earlier this month when the region went from a red to an orange alert zone under the province’s alert system for combating COVID-19.

Its owner, Daniel Marino, has been known to flout the provincial guidelines and is reportedly himself now fighting the coronavirus in hospital. 

In a statement issued Wednesday, the health district said an inspection visit to the gym revealed clients not being screened for symptoms upon arrival and working out while not respecting physical distancing, as well as "inadequate personal protection for workers on site."

The gym’s manager told CTV News Wednesday it was “hard” to enforce the public health measures, which include physical distancing of two metres and mask-wearing.

"As soon as we found out, we sent people to get tested," said Dave Aube-Ouellet. 

The same day, Premier Francois Legault had some harsh words for the gym’s owners. 

"You have to think about those kids that won't be able next week to go to school," said Legault.

"You have to think about nurses that have been working hard for one year. It's not against or between him and me. It's between him and other citizens."

Legault made the remarks at a press conference to announce Quebec City was among a group of regions that will go into a 10-day lockdown after a surge of COVID-19 infections.

Schools and all non-essential businesses in the city are closed as of Thursday at 8 p.m. until April 12, with the bigger region reverting back from orange to red zone. 

Health Minister Christian Dube also used the gym as an example of what can happen when people gather as Easter weekend approaches.

"Let's use this example in the gym that happened two days ago, and let's make sure it doesn't happen this weekend during the long holiday," said Dube.