Five more municipalities to enter lockdown as Quebec reports 1,252 new COVID-19 cases

·3 min read

MONTREAL — The mayor of a small town that was set to enter lockdown Monday night says the provincial government has been incoherent in its messaging on COVID-19 health orders.

One week ago, in-person dining at restaurants was permitted in St-Victor, Que., a community of about 2,500 people located 100 kilometres south of Quebec City. Mayor Jonathan V. Bolduc said it felt as though there "wasn't a cloud on the horizon," he said in an interview Monday.

But the next day, on March 30, Quebec Premier Francois Legault warned residents in the region to be alert but made no changes. Twenty-four hours later, Legault announced the Chaudiere-Appalaches region, in which St-Victor is located, would be moved into the province's highest pandemic-alert level, under which in-person dining is banned.

On Sunday, the government said five regional municipalities in Chaudiere-Appalaches — including Robert-Cliche, where St-Victor is located — would enter lockdown the following day.

"For business, this situation is very difficult," said Bolduc, who is also prefect of the Robert-Cliche regional municipality.

Mayors in the region used to have a weekly conference call with public health but that hasn't happened since before the most recent health order was imposed, he said.

The Chaudiere-Appalaches region reported 104 new infections Monday — up from 40 the previous Monday. The government health order is to take effect at 8 p.m. and last at least one week.

Non-essential businesses and restaurant dining areas are ordered to close, schools will move to virtual learning, and the overnight curfew will start at 8 p.m. instead of 9:30 in Beauce-Sartigan, Bellechasse, Les Etchemins, Nouvelle-Beauce and Robert-Cliche.

Those five areas join three cities placed under a lockdown last week: Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau.

The Montreal region has so far escaped a return to lockdown but it remains "under pressure," Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted on Monday, adding, "The situation in our hospitals is concerning, hospital capacity in intensive care is fragile."

Quebec reported 1,252 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and four more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one within the previous 24 hours. They said hospitalizations rose by one, to 502, and 123 people were in intensive care, a drop of five.

The province said it administered 22,494 doses of vaccine Sunday, for a total of 1,552,215; officials said 18.3 per cent of the population has received at least one dose. More than 75 per cent of Quebecers over 65 have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine or have an appointment to get their first shot, Dube said on Twitter.

Quebecers in several regions outside of Montreal will be able to register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments in pharmacies starting Tuesday. The vaccine rollout is expanding to pharmacies in the Montreal suburb of Laval and the nearby Lanaudiere, Laurentides and Monteregie regions.

The Association quebecoise des pharmaciens proprietaires, an organization that represents pharmacists, said 550 pharmacies have received about 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine to be administered at each location. Another 350 pharmacies in Montreal began vaccinating people on March 22.

Meanwhile, health officials in Quebec City said Monday they believe 171 cases of COVID-19 are linked to an outbreak at a gym that was recently ordered closed. Officials said 20 workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to the Mega Fitness Gym.

Quebec has reported a total of 317,364 COVID-19 COVID-19 cases and 10,697 deaths linked to the virus; it has 10,271 active reported infections.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press