MONTREAL -- The Quebec government is asking all municipalities to cancel or postpone all forms of consultation that require the presence of citizens, such as public consultation meetings, referendums or register keeping.

In a request sent Thursday, Quebec Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Andree Laforest writes that her request is aimed at minimizing the risks of spreading COVID-19 that could arise from the holding of a public meeting attended by a large number of people.

The lack of distance between people is seen as an important risk factor for transmission of the new coronavirus.

Laforest added that the collaboration of all municipalities is needed more than ever so that, as a community, Quebec can protect its citizens.

The Minister added that she is currently working on developing solutions that will allow ongoing municipal projects to continue, while respecting the directives of Quebec Public Health.

On Wednesday, infectious diseases experts urged Canadians not to be discouraged if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase rapidly in the coming days, despite measures by authorities and citizens to slow the spread of the pandemic.

An infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Dr. Matthew Oughton, explained that it takes five to seven days for patients to develop symptoms and a few more days for test results. It will therefore take about two weeks before social distancing efforts show their real impact.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch of the University of Toronto says that measures such as social distancing will ultimately succeed in curbing the rate of infection.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2020.