Quebec orders gyms, bars and other entertainment venues closed for another 4 weeks

Sidhartha Banerjee
·3 min read

MONTREAL — Quebecers in the province's biggest cities will have to live with COVID-19 restrictions for another four weeks, Premier Francois Legault said Monday.

Legault extended his partial lockdown order for the province's maximum-alert regions, including Montreal and Quebec City, until Nov. 23. The rates of new, daily infections and deaths linked to the novel coronavirus are too high to justify easing restrictions, he said.

"Our efforts over the past month have paid off," Legault told a Montreal news conference. "We've stabilized the number of new cases; it shows we're able to stop the virus when we all do our part."

Legault ordered gyms, bars, entertainment venues and restaurant dining areas closed in so-called "red zones" for 28 days beginning Oct. 1. And while the number of new cases reported by health authorities has stabilized since then, the premier said the province cannot tolerate the current rates of infection and death.

Quebec reported 808 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 10 more deaths linked to the virus. The province has a seven-day average of 940 daily cases, representing roughly 110 infections per million people. Hospitalizations dropped by eight compared with the prior day, to 543.

"We need to reduce the number of cases, hospitalizations and death, and to do that, we need four more weeks," Legault said.

Earlier in the day -- before Legault announced the lockdown extension -- a coalition of gyms and other fitness-related businesses vowed to reopen Oct. 28 regardless of the health orders.

Christian Menard, vice-president of ProGym in east-end Montreal, said in the absence of evidence that gyms and other training centres are contributing to COVID-19 outbreaks, they should be allowed to reopen.

"We want the premier to take into consideration the opinion and the lives of those on the ground and those who use these facilities," Menard said.

While some the coalition's 253 members have vowed to reopen their doors on Thursday, not all committed to doing so.

Legault rejected Menard's pleas. He said owners of gym and of other businesses who violate lockdown orders risk being fined. "I understand mental health is at risk but right now we have to choose the less worse solution," Legault said.

The premier said public health would analyze the situation in two weeks and determine if restrictions can be eased earlier.

Meanwhile, the public health agency in the Monteregie region, south of Montreal, said Monday that four people had tested positive for COVID-19 after going to a pool hall in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., this month. Dozens more are awaiting test results.

The agency said in a statement that physical distancing rules were not respected at Dooly's, which hosted a pool tournament and Halloween party on Oct. 14 and 15. At the time, that region's bars were still permitted to be open.

Meanwhile, police said 83 students found at a house party early Sunday in Chelsea, Que., near the border with Ottawa, received fines worth $1,000 each plus costs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2020.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press