Quebec Premier Francois Legault ordered the closure of gathering places such as bars, theatres, gyms and movie theatres on Sunday as the province brought in more aggressive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
He said restaurants were allowed to stay open but were being asked to limit the number of clients to 50 per cent capacity.
Legault said Quebecers should try to stay at least one metre away from other people and limit their activities outside the home.
“What I say to Quebecers is we have to limit outings,” he said. “We should go out only to work, buy bread, go to the pharmacy, get health care, take a walk or go help people age 70 and up.”
He said the measure is directed at entertainment and recreation facilities, and did not extend to workplaces or stores for the moment.
He acknowledged the changes would disrupt Quebecers’ routines, but insisted “what we are doing right now will save lives.”
Legault said he would also like to see the border closed to foreign tourists, and will continue to discuss the issue with the federal government.
The directive came as Quebec’s number of confirmed cases rose by 11 on Sunday, from 24 to 35.
They include two new cases in the Quebec City region, two in Mauricie – Centre du Quebec and two in the Monteregie region southeast of Montreal, as well as one non-resident who was tested in the province.
Currently, three cases are hospitalized.
Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover. However, the illness can be much more severe for some, including Canadians aged 65 and over and those with compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions, and officials have stressed the need to minimize the spread of the virus in order to not exceed the capacity of the health system.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s director of public health, said the closures announced Sunday also apply to libraries, pools, spas, sauna, ski and trampoline centres, arcades, gyms, dance studios, buffets and sugar shacks.
He said the measure was intended to ensure that people didn’t “move the problem elsewhere” by seeking new places to gather in light of the closure of schools and daycares in the province for the next two weeks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2020
by Morgan Lowrie in Montreal