Quebec considers extending lockdown in hardest-hit cities

The Quebec government is considering keeping harsh restrictions in place in the hardest-hit cities, with the province recording its highest COVID-19 numbers in more than two months.

Newer strains of the coronavirus continue to gain ground, especially in regions outside Montreal, leading to more than 1,600 cases being reported on Thursday — the highest total since Jan. 23.

Schools, restaurant dining rooms, gyms, hair salons and other non-essential businesses were ordered closed in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau on April 1.

Religious gatherings were also limited to 25 people and the overnight curfew was also moved up from 9:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Those restrictions were to be in place until April 12.

Similar rules were applied Monday to other municipalities in the Chaudière-Appalaches region.

But a spike in cases — and the growing presence of more transmissible variants — appears to have prompted the government to extend those restrictions further. 

Premier François Legault will speak at 5 p.m. today, his second late-afternoon news conference in two days.

On Thursday, the province reported the highest number of cases in a single day for the Quebec City region, with more than 430.

Quebec City is dealing with a surge in coronavirus variant cases, many linked to an outbreak at a gym. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

Public health officials have linked at least 419 cases in recent days to an outbreak at a gym. One gym member, a 40-year-old man, has since died.

Alexis Turgeon, a critical care physician at the CHU de Québec–Université Laval, said they have beds available in the ICU, but stressed the situation is “fragile.”

“We are for sure very concerned and it’s been a very rapid spread in the region,” he said Thursday. 

Turgeon noted that he has been treating more younger people — age 40 or lower — and they are staying in the ICU longer.

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