Quebec imposes curfew hoping to curb COVID-19

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Photo: Screenshot from Facebook

Premier François Legault took to Facebook to explain new pandemic measures.

The decision of the Quebec government to impose a curfew became real for most of the population at about 6:30 on Saturday, Jan. 9. At that time, security alerts on cell phones began sounding the warning that the curfew would take effect at 8 p.m that night.

The curfew, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., is to be in place until Feb. 8 and is intended to limit social contact in the hopes of stopping the spread of COVID-19, after the province set records for new cases in early January.

Premier François Legault posted a message on Facebook Saturday morning explaining the drastic measure, the first time a provincewide curfew has been imposed. “It is a difficult decision that I took to put a stop to the propagation of the virus. The principal reason for a curfew is to prevent gatherings, even the smallest ones. It is the addition of small infringements that feeds the virus,” he wrote.

The premier said a major motivation for the curfew is to ease the stress on the hospital network. “We are reaching the tipping point where we won’t be able to treat the most urgent cases. It could affect everyone, our loved ones as well as ourselves.”

The curfew is sweeping, but there are many important exceptions. People can walk their dogs after 8 p.m. as long as they stay within a kilometre of their homes. Essential workers will be allowed to go to and from their workplaces outside curfew hours. Restaurants will be allowed to deliver orders after 8 p.m.

Other exemptions can be made for humanitarian reasons, such as visiting a sick parent or seeking medical treatment. Pharmacies will remain open past the curfew, as will dépanneurs that sell gasoline. However, tobacco and alcohol products won’t be sold after 8.

The government is making a form available for employers to give employees to prove they need to break curfew to go to work.

Besides the curfew, the government has taken several other measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus. The forced closure of non-essential businesses is an extension of the measures the government imposed on Dec. 26.

The measures go even further in some circumstances, such as the banning of all indoor sports activities such as skating or swimming in city facilities.

Some measures have been relaxed; students are now allowed to access municipal libraries to take advantage of high-speed internet service they might not have at home.

Construction and manufacturing industries will be allowed to continue with “activities reduced to a minimum.” Teleworking is mandatory “except for workers whose employers deem their presence necessary to pursue the organization’s activities.”

There are also new measures for schools in the province. Although in-person classes for preschool and elementary students were to resume on Jan. 11, students in Grades 5 and 6 must now wear masks at all times, including in class. Secondary students resume in-person classes on Jan. 18, and all students and staff must wear masks unless a two-metre distance can be maintained.

Full details on the new COVID-19 measures can be found (in English) on the Quebec government website.

www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/confinement-in-quebec/ 

 

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Under the Quebec Bridge on Boulevard Champlain, this message from the Ministry of Transport warns drivers that only essential travel is allowed during the provincewide curfew. Photo by Cassandra Kerwin

 

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This photo of the completely empty Henri-IV highway, looking north from the Chemin Saint-Louis overpass, shows how serious the current pandemic has become and how well residents are obeying the curfew. QCT photojournalist Cassandra Kerwin said, “It was spooky and mysterious. I felt as if I was in an apocalypse movie." Photo by Cassandra Kerwin