Heavy police presence expected across Quebec for 8 pm curfew tonight

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Quebecers out in the street after 8 p.m. tonight can expect to be questioned by police as a month-long curfew comes into effect to control the spread of COVID-19.

The province announced earlier this week that the curfew will be in place from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., except for those who fall into certain exempted categories, such as essential workers.

Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault said earlier this week that the measure is designed to make it easier to catch people who are intent on gathering, in violation of current health orders.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault posted an address to the province on his Facebook page Saturday.

"This is a difficult decision I made to curb the spread of the virus," he wrote. "The main reason for the crufew is to prevent gatherings, even the minimal ones. Anyone can catch it and pass it on to a loved one. Even if we have no symptoms, we can spread the virus."

Guilbault said in a tweet that the province will send out an emergency alert this afternoon to remind Quebecers of the curfew, and that police will be more visible on the streets over the weekend.

The curfew comes as Quebec's COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise and hospitals say they're filling up and risk becoming overwhelmed.

It will last at least four weeks, until Feb. 8, and violators could face fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. Those minors over 14 years old can face a fine of $500.

"As premier, my first duty is to protect Quebecers," Legault wrote. "I consider the situation to be critical and need a shock treatment."

As of Friday, Quebec reported that there were 24,553 active cases in the province, and 1,403 people were in the province's hospitals being treated for the disease.

"Our hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients," said the premier. "Hundreds of people are in ICU (207 patients) fighting for their lives. Dozens of people die every day."

The premier said in his post that many treatments and operations are being delayed, including cancer treatments, and that the province is approaching a tipping point where "we can only cure the most urgent cases."

"It can affect everyone, our loved ones as ourselves," said Legault. "Our battle ends and as in a long marathon, the last few kilometres are the hardest. I beg you to make this last effort."

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