MONTREAL — Religious leaders in Quebec are denouncing new restrictions on the number of congregants allowed inside houses of worship as officials clamp down amid a spike in new COVID-19 cases
Quebec on Sunday tightened public health directives for indoor public and private gatherings, saying a maximum of 50 people can now attend indoor religious services.
In regions classified as orange under the province's alert system, including Montreal and Quebec City, that limit goes down to 25.
In a statement on Monday, a group of leaders from various faiths said they want houses of worship to be classified like theatres and concert halls, which can host as many as 250 people, even in orange zones.
Their demand comes as Quebec reported 586 new cases of COVID-19 — a jump of more than 100 infections compared with Sunday.
Health officials also reported three additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, which they said occurred from Sept. 14-19.
Quebec has reported a total of 68,128 COVID-19 infections and 5,804 deaths attributed to the virus. Health officials said they mistakenly attributed an earlier death to the virus and removed it from the total.
The province's public health director, Horacio Arruda, and the director of Montreal public health, Mylene Drouin, both said on Monday that Quebec was at the start of a second wave of the pandemic.
Arruda urged Quebecers to reduce their contact with others to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
Speaking alongside Arruda, Genevieve Guilbault, Quebec's deputy premier, said police handed out more than 90 infractions to bars and restaurants across the province over the weekend for violating public health guidelines.
Police officers conducted over 2,000 visits as part of blitz, said Guilbault, who described it as a "great success."
She also urged people across Quebec to keep social gatherings to a minimum and avoid parties, dinners with family and other gatherings.
Health officials said Monday that the number of people in hospital increased by 10 compared with the prior day, for a total of 148. Of those patients, 30 people were in intensive care, one fewer than on Sunday.
The province said it conducted 23,126 COVID-19 tests on Saturday, the last date for which the testing data is available.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2020.
Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, The Canadian Press