The Quebec government is imposing an overnight curfew and closing most businesses for a month in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Premier François Legault said the stricter measures, which he described as “shock therapy,” will begin Saturday. Many of them will be in place for four weeks, until Feb. 8.
“The upcoming month is going to be a critical one,” Legault said at a news conference Wednesday. “We are in a race against time.”
“Unfortunately we have lost this race in the last few weeks. But we can win it.”
The measures include:
A provincewide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The fine for breaking curfew will be $1,000 to $6,000.
Non-essential businesses will be closed but curbside pickup will be allowed.
Restaurants, gyms and theatres will remain closed.
All non-essential workplaces will remain closed.
Elementary schools will open as planned on Jan. 11, but children in Grade 5 and 6 will be required to wear a mask.
High schools will remain closed for another week, opening Jan. 18.
Daycares will stay open.
Grocery stores and depanneurs will close at 7:30 p.m.
The measures don’t apply to the autonomous northern territory of Nunavik, as well as the James Bay region.
Manufacturing and construction will not be shut down, unlike during the lockdown in the spring. But the premier asked them to concentrate on work and goods that are considered “essential.”
More than a quarter of COVID-19 outbreaks in the province’s workplaces were identified in the manufacturing industry during the week ending Dec. 19, according to the most recent government data.
Those outbreaks were tied to 1,336 out of a total of 3,367 infections linked to workplace outbreaks that week.
Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said most of those outbreaks occurred in the food industry, which is essential and cannot be shut down.
The premier had been reluctant to introduce stricter measures despite growing concern from health experts, saying he wanted to protect families and the economy.
But the rising daily case count and the increasing number of hospitalizations prompted the government to change course.
“As premier, I am responsible for the safety of Quebecers,” Legault said.
“I have to make difficult decisions. There aren’t a thousand solutions and there are no perfect solutions. It is urgent to reduce Quebecers’ contacts.”
New restrictions were put into effect over the Christmas break, shutting schools and all non-essential businesses until Jan. 11.
Legault said Wednesday the measures weren’t enough to reduce the spread of the virus and that a longer period of confinement is necessary.
As part of the announcement, Quebec also revealed an updated, more optimistic vaccination timeline.
The province expects to vaccinate 250,000 people by early February, when Legault plans to lift some of the lockdown measures.
Those include all those living in long-term care homes and more than half the province’s health-care workers.
By the middle of February, Quebec expects to begin vaccinating people over 80 in the general population.