Quebec premier calls for police to issue more tickets for COVID 19 violations
By Jacob Serebrin
(CP) MONTREAL – Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Wednesday he has asked the province’s police forces to issue more tickets to people violating COVID-19 regulations as the number of cases in the province continues to rise.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, the premier said he wants to “send a clear message” to what he described as a small minority of Quebecers who are putting the rest of the public’s health at risk.
The province is considering further restrictions, Legault said, but nothing has been decided yet.
Vaccinations against COVID-19 are scheduled to start at two long-term care homes in the province on Monday, Health Minister Christian Dube said.
While vaccine manufacturer Pfizer has asked Canadian governments not to move boxes of vaccine once they are received, Dube told reporters that a number of the province’s 20 vaccine distribution sites are located in long-term care homes, allowing it to continue with its plan to begin vaccination at those facilities.
The vaccine must be stored at below -70 C.
Dube said he hopes that once the province has demonstrated that it can handle the vaccine properly, Pfizer will allow for movement of the boxes.
The initial goal of Quebec’s vaccination plan will be to protect vulnerable people, public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said.
In addition to health-care workers, the vaccination campaign will first target residents of long-term care homes and private seniors residences. Arruda said 70 per cent of those who have died from COVID-19 in Quebec lived in those kinds of facilities.
While Legault said he hopes to be able to start talking about lifting the existing restrictions in January, once the vaccination campaign is underway, he said there are still difficult weeks ahead.
Legault is scheduled to meet with Prime Minster Justin Trudeau and other provincial premiers on Thursday.
He said they plan to spend two hours discussing vaccine distribution but the main focus of Legault – and the other premiers – will be lobbying Trudeau to increase federal health-care transfers. Ottawa currently provides 22 per cent of health-care funding, and the premiers want that increased to 35 per cent.
But Legault said he thinks it will take more than a single meeting to secure the funding increase, which he said would be worth around $28 billion a year for the provinces.
Quebec reported 1,728 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday as well as 37 additional deaths.
The province says hospitalizations increased by nine to 844 and the number of people in intensive care increased by seven, to 121.
“The increase in hospitalizations is putting people on hold for other treatments, surgeries,” Legault said. “This could affect anybody, not just those vulnerable to COVID.”
One death that was previously attributed to COVID-19 was withdrawn from the total, for a sum of 7,349 deaths and 156,468 confirmed cases in Quebec since the pandemic began.
Arruda is scheduled to answer questions from members in Quebec’s National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon. It will be the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that the public health director has taken questions from members of all parties in the province’s legislature.