Quebec awaits lockdown news as province schedules Legault press conference

Doctors, teachers, parents and many, many others are anxious for an update on Quebec's lockdown plans, and they may soon get what they want: a rare 5 p.m. press conference now scheduled for Wednesday.

Late Monday afternoon, the province announced that Premier François Legault would be speaking on Tuesday at 5 p.m., along with Health Minister Christian Dubé and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. A couple of hours later, a second announcement said the event had been rescheduled for the following day.

CTV has confirmed that the government is considering a strict lockdown, possibly accompanied by a nighttime curfew, which would make it the first Canadian province to take that measure.

A La Presse report claims that according to government sources, the lockdown will begin Saturday and will affect schools, offices, construction and manufacturing. Only basic necessities such as grocery stores and pharmacies would remain open.

In recent months, late-afternoon press conferences are fairly unusual and tend to be reserved for big announcements, unlike the daily COVID-19 updates, which are generally scheduled for 1 p.m. 

I’m told they need another day to discuss with public health and get all their ducks in a row. So Premier Legault news conference with his health minister and public health director is now Wed., Jan. 6 at 5 p.m. #CJAD800

— Shuyee Lee (@sleeCJAD) January 5, 2021

The press conference will come after a meeting with the leaders of the provincial opposition parties, and it will be held virtually, another somewhat rare move for Legault, Dubé and Arruda.

Reports say consultations are underway Tuesday about how the province would enforce a lockdown, as well as the duration of a nightly curfew. According to La Presse, it would likely be in place from 8 or 9 p.m. and through to the next morning, with exceptions -- possibly in the way of passes -- for essential workers. 

After a brief post-New Year's pause in announcing daily COVID-19 numbers, recent statistics have been updated and they don't look good for Quebec.

Monday brought 2,546 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours and 69 more hospitalizations, and Tuesday brought another 2,508 cases and 62 deaths. Quebec has returned to being Canada's COVID-19 hot spot, with a case rate per capita that's higher than any other province or territory.

The province's circuit-breaker "pause" is currently scheduled to end on Jan. 11. Also on Monday, several infectious diseases experts urged the province to delay ending the lockdown, or at least to delay reopening schools.

On Monday, the United Kingdom imposed a new containment order, while in France, curfews have just been brought forward from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. in some areas in the east of the country.

A NECESSARY MEASURE, SAYS DOCTOR

A lockdown is the only solution as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, said MUHC emergency room doctor Mitch Shulman, though he said it’s a last resort due to what he perceives a failures on the government’s part.

“A lockdown is not the best way of dealing with this situation,” he said, adding that the best results comes from “a lot of testing on a regular basis, rapid return of results, rapid contact of people who’ve potentially been exposed and isolation. That works.” 

“A lockdown becomes necessary when you have failed in that other alternative and then you have no choice. You have to lock down because you have failed.”

Shulman said, however, that a government decree won’t make a difference – it’s up to individuals to take heed.

“A lockdown is only as effective as the people who follow it. At the end of the day, the government can decree what it wants, but if we don’t do what we need to do as individuals, all of us, then no lockdown is going to make a difference,” he said.


- With files from CTV's Rob Lurie and The Canadian Press

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