Quebec Premier Francois Legault, centre, speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. Legault is flanked by Horacio Arruda, Quebec director of National Public Health, left, and Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube. A plexiglass screen was installed to have social distancing. (Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

COVID-19: ‘Please stay home,’ Quebec tells citizens

With the number of hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Quebec steadily growing each day, provincial authorities once again pleaded with Quebecers on Wednesday to reduce their social interactions and limit their outings to work and shopping for daily necessities.

The province reported 900 new cases of COVID-19 infections on Wednesday and 12 more hospitalizations, bringing the total to 409. In the meantime, the number of people in intensive care decreased by five, for a total of 62, provincial health officials reported.

“Don’t take the risk, please don’t test the hospital system,” Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube urged the population during an afternoon press conference. “The nurses, the doctors what they are asking you, what they are asking Quebecers, ‘Please stay home.’”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault repeated Dube’s refrain.

“My message is clear and simple today,” Legault said. “You can go to school or to work but otherwise, please stay home.”

A health-care worker hands out masks to people waiting in line in the pouring rain outside a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Legault said the number of hospitalizations has doubled in two weeks. Quebec could see 1,600 new hospitalizations within a month, if the current trend continues, he said.

“Our health system is already fragile,” Legault said. “If we continue in the same way, there’s a risk that we won’t be able to protect every Quebec who needs it.”

Quebec has ramped up measures to limit the number of infections as the province finds itself in the epicentre of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.

Several areas of the province, including its largest metropolis, Montreal, and the provincial capital of Quebec City, have been moved into the so-called red alert zone, the maximum alert level for the pandemic under Quebec’s colour-coded alert system.

Quebecers living in these red alert areas are forbidden to visit each other unless they are providing care or running errands for a person who needs assistance. Provincial authorities have also shut down gyms, organized sports and extracurricular activities, libraries, theatres and cinemas, as well as bars and restaurants, except for take out. Congregations for worship or for funerals are limited to a maximum of 25 people.

New restrictions come into effect on Thursday as the province battles to limit community transmissions.

As of Thursday, students in high school will be obliged to wear masks at all times at school, including in class and on school grounds more generally.

And after initially insisting that all students must return to school for in-person education, provincial authorities are imposing a hybrid model of schooling for students in Grades 10 and 11, who will alternate between in-person and virtual lessons.

With files from The Canadian Press

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