MONTREAL — The COVID-19 situation in Quebec remains stable despite outbreaks at four bars and a health-care facility, deputy premier Genevieve Guilbault said Monday.
Guilbault congratulated Quebecers for their "extraordinary civic spirit" in embracing the province's new mandatory mask order, which came into effect Saturday.
"Beyond a few isolated cases, Quebecers have massively adhered to the wearing of masks," she said in Quebec City.
Guilbault said the infection rate in the province is stable, though there has recently been a slight increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases. The province has reported between 109 and 166 new cases in each of the last seven days after the number of daily cases had previously dipped below the 100 mark.
Guilbault said the rise is coupled with a boost in testing, meaning the rate of positive tests has remained steady at about two per cent. She noted that hospitalizations have also remained stable or decreased.
The deputy premier also addressed the situation in bars, which have drawn scrutiny in recent weeks after COVID-19 cases began to rise.
She said transmission in bars is limited, with only three in Montreal and one in the neighbouring Monteregie region linked to outbreaks. House parties and private gatherings remain the larger problem, she said.
Dr. Richard Masse, an adviser to the Health Department, said there were 65 cases linked to three of the outbreaks, with another potential cluster of eight cases under investigation. A total of 113 of the people who have tested positive in the last three weeks reported having visited a bar, he said.
Masse also said there was one remaining outbreak in the health-care system, at a long-term care home in the Quebec City region.
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 150 new COVID-19 cases Monday, as well as two new deaths in the last 24 hours. In total, 5,657 people have died in the province from the novel coronavirus and 57,616 have been infected since the pandemic began.
Hospitalizations remained unchanged at 251, with 17 people in intensive care. At least 50,190 people have recovered from the illness.
Quebec on Saturday became the first province in Canada to impose mandatory mask-wearing for all citizens aged 12 years and older in publicly accessible indoor places.
Guilbault said an incident caught on video that showed police arresting a man at a Montreal Tim Hortons for refusing to wear a mask was "unfortunate," but rare. "I think this is a really minimal bother to wear a mask when you consider the disadvantages to not wearing a mask," she said in reference to a possible second wave of cases.
Quebecers, she said, would have to get used to wearing masks since the rule is unlikely to be lifted in the near future.
Insp. Andre Durocher of the Montreal police said the incident cited by Guilbault was the only time officers had to intervene directly over the weekend to enforce the rules. He said police fielded slightly more than a hundred calls that were directly or indirectly related to the new mask order.
About 45 people called police to denounce a situation they found questionable, Durocher said, adding those cases were resolved or ended before further police involvement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2020.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press