COVID-19: Quebec to close all daycares, schools, CEGEPS and universities for at least two weeks

Quebec Premier Francois Legault. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)

The Quebec government announced Friday that all daycares, schools, CEGEPS and universities in the province will be closed for at least two weeks as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault made the announcement Friday morning in Quebec City. He acknowledged that the measure was drastic, but the health of all Quebecers was at stake, Legault said. "These measures aim to limit the number of cases and prevent the overflow of the healthcare network's capacities," he said in a statement."

The closures start on Monday for most schools, but institutions that have classes or events on Saturdays will be cancelled starting tomorrow, March 14. All closures are scheduled to end on March 27.

Legault said special daycares will be set up for parents of health professionals and other essential service workers to allow them to continue to offer those services.

Most school boards in Quebec - including all the boards on the island of Montreal - had already closed their schools' doors Friday to await the latest directives from the government and provincial health authorities.

Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet is expected to announce on Monday measures to support private businesses and their employees who may not be working due to COVID-19.

The government also announced that it had set up a new coronavirus information line to replace 811, which had been experiencing technical difficulties making it almost impossible for people to reach.

The government is asking people to now call its 1-877-644-4545 for information on COVID-19 and to set up a test if they believe they may be infected.

On Thursday, Legault issued a directive that no indoor gatherings of more than 250 people be held in the province until further notice.  

Legault's directive has led to a flurry of public events being cancelled.

Legault and the other officials who made Friday's announcement also urged prime-minister Justin Trudeau to limit the number of foreign visitors to Canada. Later, the federal government warned against international travel and announced limits on inbound flights. 

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec remained at 17, the same number reported Thursday. Two of those patients, Legault said, are in hospital.

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