Violating COVID-19 regulations in Quebec's red zones could carry $1,000 fine: Legault

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Quebecers in the province's red zones could face tickets of up to $1,000 for violating public health regulations.

As of midnight Thursday, three Quebec regions, including the Greater Montreal Area, will have their alert level elevated to red, the highest level. Among the previously announced restrictions that come into effect are the closing of bars, restaurant dining rooms, movie theatres and other public spaces.

Premier Francois Legault said Wednesday no gatherings in private homes, other than those involving essential services, will be allowed and that police will have the power to enforce the regulations.

“I want to be clear: police are not going to start knocking on doors at random. This is not a witch hunt. Police will only do this if there are reasons to believe there is noncompliance with the law.”

Legault said if police have reason to believe an illegal gathering is going on and police are not allowed into the residence, they will be able to obtain a warrant from a judge via telephone.

“Lives are at stake. We want to keep children in schools and protect our health network.”

“We have to tell it as it is. Because of negligence by a minority of people, we're facing a situation where a lot of people are impacted and there are lives at stake.”

NO GATHERINGS IN PARKS

The premier clarified a number of regulations that are coming into effect at midnight. Among the points he stressed was that even gatherings in public spaces such as parks would be banned in the red zones. He said police had been told to disperse any gatherings they come across, and people who resist could face a fine.

He added that Quebecers living in the red zones were also banned from travelling to other areas with fewer restrictions for purposes such as eating in restaurants. 

“What is illegal in zone red is illegal if you move to another zone," he said. 

“The idea is not to give as many fines as possible," added Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault. "The idea is to discourage people from visiting other regions. We have to avoid being a vector and reduce the spread of the virus.”

Legault noted that Quebecers who take part in hunting are able to cross zones to get to their hunting grounds, but those from red zones would not be permitted to enter places such as restaurants. 

Librairies in red zones will continue to lend out books to visitors wearing masks, but the premier added that gatherings in public librairies are also banned. 

PROTESTERS MUST WEAR MASKS

Legault singled out anti-mask protests as something that will be watched carefully, saying anyone taking part must wear a mask or risk facing a fine. 

Guilbault didn't rule out police escalating their tactics if ticketing doesn't prove persuasive enough.

"We have to give police the means to intervene," she said. "For protests, when people don't wear masks, we believe the meaures will discourage some of these people, they don't want $1,000 fine, with fees, it could be $1,500. But as the premier said, we cannot tolerate a situation where a minority impacts negatively the lives of others. Eventually we might think of other measures."

An anti-mask protest was held in Montreal on Wednesday evening, hours before the new regulations come into effect. 

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