National Post (Latest Edition)
Quebec cities face new COVID-19 restrictions
Ontario grapples with testing backlog
Quebec reported 16 more deaths Thursday as it began the first day of new restrictions meant to flatten a spike in COVID- 19 infections, while Ontario was dealing with a backlog of more than 82,000 tests and a hospital outbreak in Calgary grew.
Partial lockdowns in the greater Montreal area, Quebec City and the Chaudière- Appalaches region south of the provincial capital are to last at least 28 days.
Private gatherings are prohibited and people cannot have any visitors from another address at their homes, with caregivers or maintenance workers among the few exceptions.
Outdoor gatherings are forbidden, masks are mandatory for demonstrations, and police have the power to hand out hefty fines to those who flout the rules.
Bars, casinos, concert halls, cinemas, museums and libraries are to be shuttered and restaurants will be limited to takeout.
Bars and restaurants — including restaurants that remain open for takeout — will be able to get loans to pay for expenses including municipal taxes, mortgage interest, electricity and rent not covered by an existing federal program. Up to 80 per cent of the loan amount — to a maximum of $ 15,000 — will be forgivable, Fitzgibbon told reporters Thursday.
“It’s damned good news for us,” Paul Holder, who coowns several restaurants in Montreal, said in an interview after the announcement. But Holder, whose businesses include the bar Darling and bistros Brasserie Bernard and Holder, said that while the money will help, it won’t cover the full amount of rent and taxes.
Quebec’s restaurateur association is happy with the announcement, spokesman Martin Vezina said, because it’s the first time since the pandemic began that the provincial government has offered support to restaurants that doesn’t have to be repaid.
Fitzgibbon said the government expects the aid will cost between $ 90 million and $ 100 million and will apply to about 12,000 businesses that have been forced to close or restrict their operations.
The new deaths brought Quebec’s total to 5,850. It had 933 new cases and the number of people in hospital rose by 13 to 275. Fortysix people were in intensive care.
In Ontario, there were 538 new COVID- 19 cases and three new deaths. There were 162 people in hospital, including 36 in intensive care.
Nearly 40,000 tests were completed since Ontario’s last daily report, but there were still more than 82,000 samples waiting to be processed.
The province amended its screening guidelines for schools and daycares. meaning parents of students with the sniffles or a headache will no longer have to line up for hours to get their children tested at COVID-19 assessments centres.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said students with either of those symptoms can return to school after 24 hours if they feel fine. She said those are only symptoms in about 17 per cent of COVID- 19 cases among children, so the change seemed prudent.
“There’s all sorts of other causes of a runny nose, there’s other viruses circulating in the community,” she said. “The kid might have just been outside and got a runny nose.”
Previously, the government had asked children with either symptom to stay home until they received a negative test result or other medical diagnosis.
In Alberta, a technical glitch prevented 5,000 people who tested negative for the novel coronavirus from getting their results by phone auto- dialer or text. Those affected made up less than three per cent of the 224,000 tests completed between Sept. 3 and 29.
Anyone with a positive result in that time frame was informed by direct phone call.
Alberta Health Services said Thursday the problem had been corrected and delayed results were being delivered.
Also in Alberta, nearly 300 staff at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary were isolating as the number of COVID-19 infections at the busy hospital continued to grow. The Foothills is a major centre for trauma, highrisk obstetrics and stroke patients.
Many of the cases are linked to cardiac units, including intensive care.
As of Thursday, 35 patients, 29 workers and three visitors had contracted the virus. Five patients had died.
Staff restrictions and a reduced number of in- patient beds has meant 45 of 260 planned surgeries at the hospital have been postponed.
The Health Quality Council of Alberta, a provincial agency, said a survey done between May 25 and June 29 found 30 per cent of more than 11,000 respondents said they delayed seeking health care due to the pandemic. Of those, more than one- fifth said doing so affected their health “greatly” or “quite a bit.”
Also on Thursday, Manitoba went live with the national COVID Alert app as the province reported 36 new cases.
Quebec is to follow in the next few days. British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are in the final stages of discussions.
Ottawa is in talks with all remaining provinces that have not yet adopted the app.