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MONTREAL -- Quebec's health minister is insisting Quebecers avoid social gatherings for at least 28 days.
Christian Dube made the announcement at a press conference on Friday after the province surpassed 70,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
"If we do this, I think that it’ll encourage people to understand that, yes, it’s an additional effort that we’re asking you to do, but there’s an end to it," he said. "It’s for a month, it’s not permanent, we are asking you for one month of efforts to break this second wave."
In a news conference on Thursday, Dube specified he's asking Quebecers to avoid dinners, barbecues, parties, and other such gatherings between people who aren't part of the same bubble. The measure is an attempt to halt community transmission that public health says is the culprit of Quebec's recent uptick in cases of COVID-19.
"We're saying make a small social effort now," Dube said. "If we succeed, well, the curve -- we will flatten it."
If members of the same bubble would like to dine together at a restaurant, they can do so, the government said.
When pressed about whether restaurants and bars will close once regions begin entering the "red alert" level on the province's COVID-19 map, public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said it all depends on where the outbreaks in the province are coming from. If restaurants aren't presenting a risk, they won't have to close, Arruda said.
Quebec health authorities reported 637 new cases of the disease on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 70,307 since the start of the pandemic.
Friday's update is the highest number of cases Quebec has reported over a 24-hour period since May 21, when it reported 718.
Four more people have died in the province, for a total of 5,814. Officials say the deaths took place between Sept. 18 and 23.
A significant portion of the new cases were recorded in the Montreal region (229, for a total of 32,292), while 132 cases were recorded in Quebec City (3,483), 17 in the Eastern Townships (1,658), 38 in Chaudiere-Appalaches (1,098), 43 in Laval (6,831), 20 in Outaouais (1,230), 16 in the Laurentians (4,593) and 83 in Monteregie (10,281).
Dube announced that the entire metropolitan region of Montreal and the Riviere du Nord region -- including the Saint-Jerome area -- are now in the "orange" alert level on the province's regional COVID-19 alert map.
"The changes in the alert levels demonstrate the seriousness of the situation," Dube said.
As of Friday, there are 199 people being treated for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals, which is an increase of 15 from the number reported on Thursday. Of them, 33 people are receiving treatment in the intensive care ward, which is an increase of two over the past 24 hours.
Quebec reported another 313 recoveries on Friday, bringing the total number of people who've recovered from the disease in the province to 60,256 -- or 85.7 per cent of the cumulative cases.
Quebec reported that it completed analyses of 36,060 samples on Sept. 23 (Quebec reports its daily testing figures from two days prior). Dube said on Friday that this testing update beat Quebec's daily record.
WHEN PUBLIC HEALTH CALLS
Public health said last week that only one third of the people it attempted to reach for contact-tracing purposes answered the phone. Citizens were quick to point out that the calls come from a blocked number, which creates confusion and prevents people from calling back. Dube announced on Friday that calls from public health will now be labelled "Sante Publique."