MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault says there are no plans to follow British Columbia's lead in tightening restrictions on bars and nightclubs, even as the number of COVID-19 cases has steadily risen in the province in recent weeks.
"Most of them (new infections) are not coming from bars, so we have to look at real solutions," Legault told reporters in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday following a meeting with his Ontario counterpart, Rob Ford.
"Right now, the real problems are coming from private gatherings, so that's where we have to ask the population to respect the two metres and wear a mask and not have parties with too many people."
On Tuesday, B.C.'s provincial health officer ordered nightclubs and banquet halls to close and pushed last call for alcohol sales at bars and restaurants to 10 p.m.
Quebec City health authorities said Wednesday the number of cases from a karaoke bar and another bar in the provincial capital has risen to 80. Another 18 secondary cases are linked to the karaoke bar, including some at four local schools.
But Legault said the focus should be on private gatherings and getting across the message that the virus has not gone away.
Montreal's public health director also said home gatherings and socializing after sporting events are driving transmission, warning that small outbreaks will spread to schools and long-term care homes.
Dr. Mylene Drouin delivered her message as key COVID-19 indicators continue to rise in the country's hardest hit city, which has had 30,245 confirmed cases and 3,474 deaths.
Drouin urged caution and adherence to guidelines for face coverings and hand washing, in particular with acquaintances and family. "We ask people to be more vigilant when they are in social activities," she said.
Drouin told a news conference on Wednesday that the city has about 20 outbreaks, including one in a daycare and two at schools.
The Montreal area has at least 69 COVID-19 cases in 64 different schools since they reopened nearly two weeks ago.
Drouin said that in all but two of those cases, the infection was acquired outside the school. One of the cases with secondary transmission within a school was from teacher to student.
Long lineups were reported in west-end Montreal over the weekend with worried parents looking to get their children tested.
"What we've seen with the reopening of school is that when there was one case in one school, the parents were preoccupied and went for a screening test when it wasn't indicated," Drouin said.
She assured that when there's a case in a school, parents of children identified as moderate contacts will be advised to self-isolate and get a test during that period.
"I know parents are worried ... but if your kids haven't been in contact with positive cases, testing isn't necessary," Drouin said.
Quebec introduced a four-level, colour-coded COVID-19 alert system Tuesday — green for vigilance, yellow for an early warning, orange for moderate alert and red for maximum alert.
Drouin said Montreal is listed at the green level, but could find itself at yellow in the next week if the situation doesn't improve.
Quebec health officials reported 180 new cases of COVID-19 provincewide on Wednesday.
The province also announced three additional deaths linked to the disease from earlier in the month and withdrew two other deaths after investigations determined they weren't caused by COVID-19.
The province has now reported 64,056 confirmed cases and 5,771 deaths.
No deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, but the number of hospitalizations increased by eight to 113, while intensive care cases decreased by one to 14.
Meanwhile, three Quebec cabinet ministers who began self-isolating Tuesday after being in the presence of a local mayor who contracted the disease said they'd all tested negative.
Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette and junior transport minister Chantal Rouleau announced the news on their social media accounts.
Bonnardel and Rouleau said they will remain in preventive isolation for another week.
This story by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press