Premier François Legault says the time for warnings is over — Quebec will be cracking down on those who flout COVID-19 health and safety rules in the coming days.
The province sent an alert at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, using the emergency alert system, to remind people to follow the rules.
Police and inspectors from the province’s workplace safety board will be instructed to issue tickets, which can go up to $6,000, to individuals and businesses that break the laws, Legault said.
People must stay two metres from each other and wear a mask when they are in stores. Stores, based on their size, must limit the number of customers. And only people who live alone are allowed to have a visitor in their home.
“We cannot allow a minority of people to put the majority at risk,” Legault said.
The premier urged Quebecers to reduce their contacts, saying there are too many people with COVID-19 in hospital. The province reported just over 1,700 new cases on Wednesday, and 844 people are hospitalized.
The high number of hospitalizations has had a trickle down effect, he said, as hospitals have scaled back surgeries and other treatments in recent days.
The idea of imposing wide-scale closures over the holiday period to stop the virus from spreading has been gaining steam in recent days, as the cases keep climbing.
Legault reiterated that while he isn’t ruling out imposing further restrictions, he is not there yet. He said whether things get to that point is largely contingent on whether Quebecers follow the rules.
In order to help people reduce their contacts, Legault once again encouraged any businesses that can close from Dec. 17 to Jan. 4 to do so.
Vaccination plan moves ahead
Health Canada regulators gave the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the green light Wednesday, paving the way for the start of Quebec’s vaccination campaign.
Five boxes of the vaccine will arrive at two long-term care homes in Montreal and Quebec City Monday, where the residents and employees will be the first in the province to be immunized.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said, as of Dec. 21, vaccinations will begin at other long-term care homes, which will account for about half of the 20 sites that Pfizer has authorized to receive doses of the vaccine.
The other sites are distribution centres that are attached to hospitals. The sites were chosen because they will be equipped with the cold storage needed to keep the vaccine at the required –80 C to –60 C.
The vaccine’s storage specifications are a key reason why, at the moment, Pfizer-BioNTech is not allowing the doses to be transported away from the designated sites.
But Dubé said the company would be open to revising that directive once the vaccinations begin, if all goes well.
“It’s up to us to prove to Pfizer, and I can tell you, we will prove it to them, that we can receive more [vaccine doses] than they’re able to send us because we’re ready,” he said.
Quebec expects to immunize 650,000 people by March 31.