Legault government playing 'yo-yo' with new restrictions in Quebec, opposition says

The Legault government has erred on the side of optimism and is to blame for the current situation that has placed Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau in lockdown, opposition parties say.

The Quebec Liberal Party (QLP), Québec Solidaire (QS) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) all criticized the government's optimistic discourse on Thursday, which they say has encouraged complacency among Quebecers.

They agree that Premier Francois Legault should never have declared last week that Quebec was resisting the third wave.

"Quebec is not an island," said PLQ leader Dominique Anglade, who accused Legault of ignoring the many alarm signals coming from the provincial physicians' body, the College des medecins.

"The government must put an end to this atmosphere of improvisation (...) Nothing excuses the chaotic management. (...) It is playing yo-yo with the morale of the population'," she added.

Legault has set a reassuring tone in recent days, arguing that beyond the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19, it was necessary to take into account the number of hospitalizations, which was stable.

On Tuesday, Quebec's director of public health Horacio Arruda told La Presse that Quebec was not going to "tighten the screw" that "up to 2,000 cases a day" could be reported and that it was important not to "panic."

Twenty-four hours later, the government made a complete 180 by announcing that three cities -- Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau, where the situation is considered "critical" -- will be locked down until April 12.

All non-essential businesses, in addition to primary and secondary schools, will be closed.

In fact, four regions are returning to the red level as of Thursday at 8 p.m.: the Bas-Saint-Laurent, Capitale-Nationale, Chaudiere-Appalaches and the Outaouais region. 

"How are people supposed to adhere to the measures if the speech flies like a leaf in the wind?" asked QS spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

"The yo-yo effect is not just a problem of communication, it exhausts people. People are exhausted by the waltz of confinements and reconfinements."

The PQ health spokesperson, Joël Arseneau, meantime warns that the greater Montreal region may be the next to "suffer the consequences" of the government's "carelessness."

"I don't see the government today sharing these concerns by locking itself into decisions that are questionable on the idea, for example, of young people going back to school every day, or opening places of worship to 250 people," he said.

LEGAULT DEFENDS HIMSELF

In question period on Thursday, Premier Legault defended the targeted measures he has taken, he said, in certain regions that have experienced "explosions" of cases of COVID-19.

He argued that the situation was stable in Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean, the Eastern Townships, Montreal, Montérégie and Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

Cases of COVID-19 are also decreasing in the Mauricie--Centre-du-Québec region, Laval, Lanaudière and the Laurentians, he said.

"There was a rapid increase in four regions," he said. "Strong decisions were made quickly, much more quickly, than what was done in other provinces."

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2021. 

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