Quebec Police set up a checkpoint to limit non-essential travel between Ottawa and Gatineau amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Christina Succi/CTV News Ottawa)

Quebec police have turned away hundreds of Ontario motorists at the Gatineau-Ottawa border in the first two days of new measures to limit non-essential travel in Quebec.

For the second straight day, Gatineau Police and the Surete du Quebec set up random, roadside checkpoints at the interprovincial bridges along the Ontario-Quebec border in the national capital region. Motorists were greeted by police on the Portage Bridge and the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.

On Wednesday, upwards of 300 people were denied entry and sent home because the trip wasn’t essential.

Gatineau Police told CTV News Ottawa’s Christina Succi the reasons motorists are being denied entry include visiting a second property, going to a restaurant and grocery shopping.  

Gatineau Police tell me checkpoints are random & at rotating hours and they are screening drivers too trying cross INTO Ottawa.

Reasons we’ve seen drivers sent back to Ontario: for visiting a 2nd property, visiting a restaurant, grocery shopping. #COVIDー19 #COVID19 #ottawa https://t.co/15C1tHNhJW

— Christina Succi (@CTVChristina) April 2, 2020  

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin told CTV News Ottawa that “we have to take strong measures to protect our people.”

On Wednesday, the Quebec Government announced police will be deployed in the Outaouais region aiming to “limit non-essential movements” between Ontario and Quebec and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The government insisted the measures will not affect essential workers and health care and services.

Gatineau Police say at the checkpoints, police will assess on a case-by-case basis whether or not the travel is essential, for instance:

  • To get to work if teleworking is not an option
  • For medical appointments or care, or
  • For humanitarian reasons

Gatineau's transit service, STO, says service on both sides of the river will not be impacted.

Speaking with reporters Thursday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the police checkpoints at the provincial border.

“I think that every province is going to look at what its own needs are,” said Trudeau, while speaking at Rideau Hall.

“We will continue to work very, very closely with the provinces and all jurisdictions to ensure that the tools that everyone has at every different level are used as they need to be.”

Speaking on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning, Gatineau's Mayor urged Ontario residents and travellers to stay home.

“The goal is to send a message. People go through if they have a valid reason. We understand it wouldn’t be possible to close the border, nobody wishes that, but too many people are on the road for no valid reasons.”

Pedneaud-Jobin said if motorists don’t cooperate with requests to return to Ontario, they could face a fine from $1,000 to $6,000.

Ottawa Councillor Mathieu Fleury says he thought the rules were “An April Fool’s Joke,”

“These measures were not properly coordinated … raises a lot of questions for our essential workers.”

Motorists are being told to expect to see random Gatineau Police checkpoints at the Alexandra Bridge, Portage Bridge, Chaudieres Bridge, Champlain Bridge, Masson-Angers ferry and the intersection of route 148 and Terry Fox Drive. The Surete du Quebec has been stationed at random times on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.

The National Capital Commission says approximately 40,000 vehicles a day cross the Portage Bridge. Approximately 400 cyclists an hour cross the bridge during the morning and afternoon commutes.