Quebec’s decisions and initiatives towards relaxing some Covid-19 safety and health protocols, are not exactly what they were hoping for – a return to somewhat of a ‘normal’ life. Even though the economy was suffering to an unprecedented degree, it might prove to be a move made to soon – resulting in more challenging repercussions. Stores, bars, restaurants, cinemas and more were allowed to reopen, public gatherings were increased to 250 people and schools opened their doors (albeit to much controversy). Masks were made mandatory by law in all indoor public spaces, including public transportation and highly recommended for large, outdoor gatherings. However, the province is now seeing a very disconcerting and significant rise in the number of daily cases, with some of the highest since last June. It has led to the implementation of the government’s four level, Covid-19 colour-coded alert system – and there are 8 regions presently under a ‘Level 2 Yellow Alert’, with Montreal now part of the growing list.
This came as the province saw more than 200 cases for six days in a row, with close to 300 cases this past Tuesday September 15th alone. At a press conference Premier Francois Legault said, ‘The situation is critical. It’s worrisome and we must act now’ – with a warning that there is presently a ‘real risk’ of a second wave, resulting in the return of various levels of lockdowns. He said he does ‘not understand why some people are still ignoring warnings’ or ‘holding fall barbecues and corn boils with large groups or gathering in restaurants’.
“Today I am making an appeal for the solidarity,” he said. “Please think of vulnerable people, think of those waiting for surgery, think of those working in the health system, think of our children… it’s not time to hold family parties or parties with friends. We are all at war against the virus.”
The 8 regions who were at Level 1 Green and now at Level 2 Yellow include: the Eastern Townships, Outaouais, Montérégie, Bas-St-Laurent, Chaudière-Appalaches, Quebec City, Laval and Montreal. It amounts to almost 75% of Quebecers now living in a ‘Yellow’ zone, which brings with it increased police inspections and strict controls on activities. Although there are no regions in the Level 3 ‘Orange Zone’ as of yet, Quebec’s Director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda believes that ‘we will have some shortly’ and that would result in stricter restrictions. Here are what the Levels and Color zones mean:
GREEN LEVEL 1 – VIGILANCE: Vigilance requires constant attention amid the COVID 19 pandemic. This level corresponds to weak community spread and requires that all dictated basic measures are followed in all settings (physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, hand-washing, etc.). Other measures may also apply for specific activities and settings.
YELLOW LEVEL 2 – EARLY WARNING: Early Warning is required as soon as transmission of the virus starts to grow. The basic measures will be strengthened and further action taken to promote and encourage compliance. For example, there could be more inspections and greater crowd control in various venues to facilitate physical distancing.
ORANGE LEVEL 3 – MODERATE ALERT: Moderate Alert introduces new measures that target specific sectors of activity and settings where the risk of transmission is deemed higher. These sectors and settings will be subject to selective restrictions, prohibitions and closures (such as limits on the size of public gatherings; including weddings and parties, closures of bars and restaurants *with takeout allowed and the number of people allowed to gather in private residences would be reduced back to six).
RED LEVEL 4 – MAXIMUM ALERT: Maximum Alert includes targeted and additional more restrictive measures that could extend to prohibiting non-essential activities in situations where risk cannot be sufficiently contained, while avoiding the generalized confinement that was experienced during the first wave of the pandemic as much as possible.
There are still many unknowns and much uncertainty remains about the Covid-19 virus. Although potentially effective, reliable vaccines are being studied and tested around world, none has yet to be confirmed – and it could be months, a year or more away. If Quebecers want a return to ‘normal’, it is up to the people to make it happen, by diligently following the safety and health protocols. However, with some people refusing to wear masks, believing they are useless, or those flaunting the directives and the conspiracy theorists who for some unsubstantiated reason believe there is no virus and this is all some type of a ‘global government plot to control us’ – it is somewhat disconcerting. As the saying goes, ‘It takes just one bad apple to spoil the bunch’.