In a press conference on Dec. 15, Quebec Premier Francis Legault announced new COVID-19 restrictions, the strictest since the full lockdown that was imposed in the spring when the pandemic first erupted. This comes after an alarming surge in cases across the province. As of Dec. 25, all non-essential businesses province wide will be closed until at least Jan. 11. Grocery stores, pharmacies, pet stores and hardware stores will remain open, as well as the SAQ and the SQDC. Elementary schools will also be closed for an additional week, until Jan. 11, with some options for remote learning being offered. Legault referred to this second lockdown as an “extended holiday break.”
In an effort to level the playing field, large chains such as Costco and Walmart will only be allowed to sell essential items to ensure there is less of an unfair advantage over smaller businesses forced to completely close for two weeks. Employers are also being asked to allow workers to work remotely whenever possible as of Dec. 17. And, finally, daycare services will remain open, but Legault is encouraging parents to keep their children at home during the holidays if possible. Daycares operated out of schools will only be open to the children of essential workers. “We think these measures will give us every chance to protect our hospitals and our health workers,” said Legault, “and to break this second wave.”
After two months of relatively stable numbers in the Montérégie, the virus has picked up speed. During the week of Dec. 7 to 13 there were 1,473 new cases diagnosed, more than two hundred more than the previous week. During the same week there were a total of 41 hospitalizations and 22 deaths. In the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent there are currently a total of 45 active cases, with 19 having been diagnosed from Dec. 7 to 13. The MRC des Jardins-de-Napierville has reported 21 new cases, the MRC de Beauharnois-Salaberry has reported 26, and the MRC de Vaudreuil-Soulanges has reported 133 new cases in the last week. Most of the municipalities in the region have fewer than five active cases, with the exception of Ormstown and Huntingdon, which are currently reporting 9 active cases each.
Mobile testing clinics continue to take place every week around the Montérégie, and the dates, times and locations can all be found online: http://www.santemonteregie.qc.ca/en/health-advice/coronavirus-covid-19. Anyone experiencing symptoms, those who have been exposed to the virus, or those who have come into contact with someone who has and has been advised by public health to get tested, are encouraged to do so.
Although the Quebec government started vaccinations against COVID-19 on Dec. 14, with plans to vaccinate 500 people per day, there’s still a long way to go before we will start to see any impact. “The virus is everywhere in Quebec, people need to remember that. It can hit you from anywhere,” says Quebec’s Director of Public Health Horacio Arruda. In the meantime, the provincial government is hoping these stricter rules will ease the pressure on the healthcare system and finally break the second wave.