QUEBEC — Premier Francois Legault said Friday people need to show discipline and avoid large private gatherings to ward off a second wave of COVID-19.
"We're not in a second wave, but the trend is not good, and if the trend continues, we may come to a second wave," Legault told reporters in Quebec City.
The province reported another 219 cases Friday. That brought the average number of daily new cases over the past week to more than 170, surpassing the 20 infections daily per million inhabitants threshold the province had been hoping to avoid to maintain control over the virus.
Health Minister Christian Dube said the province can still keep things under control as long as the cases-per-million figure doesn't exceed 25. He said his fear is multiple or major outbreaks could push numbers past that point.
"So that's why we're asking today, make sure you follow those rules ... and if you follow the rules, there will be less outbreaks, we will be able to control them and we'll be at the bottom of that curve."
Legault said authorities can't be everywhere to ensure rules are respected.
"I don't plan and I don't hope to have to go into each house, so I'm asking the population, please look at the number of cases, look at the virus. It's serious, so please don't do big parties without respecting the directives," he said.
One new measure taking effect Saturday is hefty fines for people not wearing a mask in indoor public spaces. Public Security Minister Geneveive Guilbault announced Friday the penalties will range from $400 to $6,000.
Despite the upward trend in cases, Quebec students were told they could resume extracurricular activities and specialized arts and sport-study programs as of Monday.
Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said public health officials have approved the activities under certain conditions in regions classified as green and yellow under Quebec's new COVID-19 alert system.
Roberge had initially said the back-to-school plan was to limit children to a classroom bubble until October, causing a backlash from students.
On Friday, Roberge said the situation in schools since students returned to class is "under control," and students will be allowed to take part in up to two activities outside their main class group.
"We still continue to say it's really important for the kids to keep their social distancing and stay with their groups," Roberge told a news conference in Quebec City.
"The difference is now we can go up to three groups."
Staff will monitor those extracurricular groups for COVID-19 cases, and if the regional alert level goes higher, the activities will be suspended and students will return to their closed classroom bubble.
Quebec introduced a four-level, colour-coded COVID-19 alert system this week — green for vigilance, yellow for an early warning, orange for moderate alert and red for maximum alert.
All Quebec regions are currently classified as either green or yellow.
On Thursday night, the province temporarily suspended publication of a list of schools with at least one COVID-19 case after some issues with reporting.
Roberge acknowledged there were problems with the list and said department officials are working on correcting the issue.
But he assured that as soon as there is an infection in a school, parents are immediately advised.
Quebec added two further deaths linked to the disease on Friday.
The province has now recorded 64,463 cases and 5,774 deaths after officials withdrew two previous deaths found not to be linked to novel coronavirus after investigation.
The number of hospitalizations increased by four to 123, while the number of people in intensive care remained unchanged at 12.
Also Friday, Quebec health officials confirmed that karaoke in bars and other public venues were banned because of the risk of COVID-19 spread.
At least 80 cases were traced to one karaoke event at a bar in Quebec City.
All bar owners will be required to keep a registry of customers to permit contact tracing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2020.
— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal
The Canadian Press