Quebec reinstates curfew, closes dining rooms, bans private gatherings as cases soar

 

Quebec is reinstating a provincewide curfew, closing restaurant dining rooms and banning private gatherings beginning on New Year’s Eve, Premier François Legault announced Thursday.

The decision comes as Quebec continues to grapple with surging COVID-19 cases fuelled by the more transmissible Omicron variant and an increasingly fragile health-care network. Quebec reported more than 14,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, and Legault said more than 16,000 will be reported on Friday.

“Our experts tell us there’s a risk we won’t be able to treat all those who need it in the coming weeks,” Legault said.

“Obviously it’s a move that is extreme, because the situation is extreme,” he said of the curfew, which he promised to remove as soon as pressure is lifted from the health network.

The curfew will be in place from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and those who violate it will be subject to fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.

Legault also announced stores will be closed for the next three Sundays, the delaying of the return to class to Jan. 17 and the closure of places of worship. Indoor sports will not be permitted.

In addition to recording 14,188 cases on Thursday, which is the largest single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic, hospitalizations in the province jumped by 135, bringing the total to 939. Of those patients, 138 are in intensive care.

Quebec said that as of Thursday its hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients stood at 1,252 for those who don’t require intensive care and 319 for those who do.

In new projections released Thursday, the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) suggested Quebec could see anywhere between 1,600 and 2,100 hospitalizations within the next three weeks.

The number of people requiring intensive care could climb to between 300 and 375 during the same time, the institute said.

The INESSS produced two sets of projections given the exponential growth in cases the province has seen, noting cases have increased by 172 per cent since last week.

“Both models predict significant growth in new hospitalizations and consequent occupancy of regular and intensive care beds over the next three weeks,” the projections say.

The institute says the rise in hospitalizations could be slowed by added vaccination efforts or by “the impact of recently implemented or upcoming health measures.”

This story will be updated.

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