Quebec Hasidic Jewish community quarantined after COVID-19 outbreak, group's leader asks police to help enforce lockdown

COVID-19 3 (CTV News)

A community of 4,000 Hasidic Jews in the Laurentians in Quebec who were quarantined by public health officials because of an outbreak of COVID-19 asked authorities on Sunday for help to enforce the measure.

The Laurentian public health department said community leaders have “worked really well” in enforcing a 14-day confinement order for the Tosh de Boisbriand Jewish community.

Community leaders said around 100 tests have been conducted, with more than 40 per cent coming up positive for the virus.

“This result is quite significant and requires urgent intervention,” they wrote in a statement.

In the statement they said schools and places of worship were closed as soon as the Quebec government recommended it.

On Monday, officials said there's a checkpoint at one entrance of the community and a barricade at another, to restrict movements to essential services only, similar to those in other communities. The checkpoint is being controlled by community members, who are encouraged to reach out to nearby police if they need assistance. 

Officials said they want to intervene in the most respectful way possible, factoring the community's beliefs into their decisions.

Quebec's public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda commented on the quarantine during the daily news briefing.

"We're doing that as we will do anywhere in Quebec or any place, we will do that, not based on religion, or anything, (but) based on the risk people there that have been affected. There is a risk of transmission in this community. And we want to make sure that we can give them good treatments, and make sure that we lower the transmissibility inside of the community, and make sure that this situation goes away," he said. 

In the past, communication between officials and the community, who speak Yiddish, has proved difficult, said Dr. Eric Goyer, the director of public health for the Laurentians. Lately, it's been much better.

"In the last few years, we’re able to send recommendations in English, they translate them in Yiddish,” he said. “They have a lot of publications in Yiddish about coronavirus.” 

According to officials, community members have been following government guidelines closely. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020. With files from CTV Montreal's Katelyn Thomas. 

SIGN UP NOW

Stay up-to-date and in-the-know by subscribing to one of our newsletters