Liberals criticized for suggesting Quebec's COVID response leading to social unrest

·3 min read

MONTREAL — Opposition parties are being irresponsible for suggesting government efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 could lead to civil disobedience, Quebec's deputy premier said Wednesday.

All of Quebec's political parties have the same enemy: the novel coronavirus, Genevieve Guilbault told reporters.

"What's irresponsible," she said, "is insinuating, directly or indirectly, that the government's actions to protect public health will lead to civil disobedience or cause the disruption of social peace."

Guilbault was reacting to comments from Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, who said on Tuesday the government's inconsistent messaging and failure to explain its decisions are leading people to lose confidence in the state and to disobey public health orders. Quebec's other political parties have also criticized the government's pandemic messaging. 

The deputy premier said the government has been transparent and is sharing all the data it has on the COVID-19 pandemic with the public.

Anglade hit back on Twitter Wednesday. It's legitimate, she said, to question the lack of tests, the transfer of workers between health centres in COVID hot spots, and the cancellation of surgeries. "It's the responsibility of the government to give real responses."

Earlier this week, a group of gym owners threatened to defy lockdown orders and open their doors on Thursday. By Wednesday, however, they backed off that threat after the premier said their clients would be targeted with fines. The owners called on their clients to instead join them in a series of protests outside their gyms and fitness studios.

Guilbault said the government would enforce its lockdown order "if they were to change their minds again."

"If we have to be severe with people who go to the gym when it is not allowed, we will be ready to do so," she said. 

Legault has extended lockdown orders across regions under the government's highest pandemic-alert levels -- including Montreal and Quebec City -- from Oct. 28 to Nov. 23. Bars, restaurant dining areas, gyms and entertainment venues have been ordered to close. Anyone caught breaking the rules can be fined up to $6,000, Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a COVID-19 outbreak at an Olymel pork processing plant southeast of Quebec City continues to grow.

Health authorities in Quebec's Beauce region said Wednesday there were 114 confirmed cases associated with the outbreak. Regional health officials conducted 581 COVID-19 tests at the plant, spokeswoman Mireille Gaudreau said in an email. Last week authorities identified 62 cases tied to the plant.

Quebec reported 17 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus Wednesday and 929 new cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations dropped by one compared with the prior day, for a total of 526, and of those, 89 people were in intensive care, a decrease of two.

Quebec has reported a total of 102,814 cases of COVID-19 and 6,189 deaths attributed to the virus. The province conducted 20,667 COVID-19 tests on Oct. 26, the last day for which testing data is available.

There are currently eight long-term care homes where more than 25 per cent of residents are infected with COVID-19, the health ministry said -- twice as many as a week ago. Six private seniors residences have more than a quarter of their residents with active cases of the disease, a situation the Health Department described as "critical."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

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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