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Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches Regions in Level 4-Maximum Alert After Cases Surge

On Sept 28., Premier François Legault announced that as of Oct 1., three Quebec regions will move from Level 3-Orange alert to Level 4-Red alert for a 28-day period.

This change to the progressive regional alert and intervention system comes after a surge in confirmed cases in the regions. On Thursday alone, 933 cases were confirmed in the province, with 319 cases in Montreal and 128 cases in the Quebec City region.

So What? People in these red alert zones will have to follow a number of new directives set out by the province. According to the Legault government, their aim is to limit activities which could result in community spread while also trying to avoid the level of “confinement” that was experienced during the first wave of the pandemic. However, in order for the maximum alert to come to an end after the four-week period, Quebecers – individually – need to take the new directives seriously, says Legault.


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New Directives: Measures in Force

  • At home (houses and cottages): visitors from other addresses are prohibited unless:
    • A single visitor from another address is visiting another single individual
    • They are informal caregivers or individuals offering services or support
    • The visitors are labourers visiting for planned work
  • Visits in CHSLD, RPA private seniors residence and RI are permitted for humanitarian purposes and for informal caregivers (one person at a time and maximum of two people per day in CHSLDs)
  • Private gatherings are prohibited
  • Activities organized in public space are prohibited except for places of worship and funerals (maximum of 25 people)
  • Inter-regional travel is not recommended
  • Auditoriums, cinemas, theatres, libraries and museums are closed
  • Restaurant dining rooms are closed, delivery and takeout orders only
  • Bars, brasseries, taverns, casinos are closed
  • Businesses (stores and boutiques) are open
  • Private professional and health services are open only for services that require an individual’s presence
  • Personal and beauty care services maintained
  • Community organizations services maintained

“We give ourselves four weeks with these measures to see if we can stop the second wave. I truly hope we do but I cannot and will not make false promises,” says Legault.

“We all have a role to play, every action is important.”


Legault’s Goal

Legault says his goal is to protect the healthcare system and schools.

During the first wave, children were sent home and schooled online, something which Legault says is not ideal for children who need socialization. That’s why Legault said this time around, keeping schools open and operating was crucial.

“For parents who are worried, parents who say they have taken action but ‘I have my child in a class with 25-30 other children’; yes, it is a risk, but it is a risk that is calculated. It is necessary to understand that a greater risk is keeping children at home, children need to socialize,” said Legault (in French).

Legault said he also understands the troubles and frustrations of businesses, restaurant, and bar owners who have to close down. In response he will be working on measures to compensate these owners and businesses who might be affected by closures.


The Progressive Regional Alert and Intervention System

Introduced on Sept. 10, the colour coded system in Quebec has four levels of alert which range from level-1: Vigilance to level-4: Maximum alert. The government of Quebec website outlines and defines the four alert levels and their subsequent “measures in force” for communities.

  • Every region in the province has now surpassed Level 1-Vigilance and have specific directives according to their community situation.

Will the Alert System Result in Any Change of Behaviour?

Rukhsana Ahmed, associate professor and chair of Communication at the University of Albany and adjunct professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Ottawa, says this colour-coded alert system is helpful in terms of visualizing change, but time will tell if it actually helps reach people and result in any change of behaviour.

The purpose of these alerts is not only about getting an individual’s attention. In today’s climate, explains Ahmed, it is about effectively getting people to react and change their behaviour to correspond with public health guidelines. 

“Any given message can be interpreted and unpacked in different ways and there’s always a feedback process,” says Ahmed.

“Do we have enough information to understand how the general public is interpreting this message? Are we going to create more panic among the public?”

Barriers to Government Plans and Alerts

While these questions are largely still left unanswered due to the present lack of data on the subject, there are a number of already evident barriers to the success of government plans and alerts.

  • One of them, explains Ahmed, can be information overload; when individuals become overwhelmed or feel bogged down by the changing information coming at them daily.
  • Another barrier to the success of containment measures for Covid-19 are people’s general distrust of particular sources of information depending on their worldview. Ahmed says differentiating aspects such as culture, political stance and perspective have an impact on an individual’s reaction to the flow of information.
  • Recently, this barrier has been at the forefront of debate. In almost every community, there have been stark differences in how people approach the seriousness of the Covid-19 prevention and containment measures, with some ignoring public health guidelines purposefully.

At Monday’s press conference, Legault called out those who are not taking things seriously.

“I saw, like everyone else this weekend, photos and videos of people gathering and making light of the situation while being closer than two meters to each other. It’s not a good idea, it’s not a good idea. I want to say to those people, we’re not doing this out of pleasure,” says Legault (said in French).

Legault finished both his French and English addresses with the same message, a call to action for those who are not respecting the rules. 

“Respect the instructions. Not for me, not for yourself, but for other,” said Legault (in French)


The Bottom Line:

The Government of Quebec is urging citizens to take personally responsibility to prevent the transmission of COVID. Although an organized, high-level response will be a necessary factor in effectively combating the virus, measures must be respected to be effective.


Run-Down: Measures in Force in Other Areas of the Province

Other regions of Queber are experiencing different measures, categorized under a colour scheme increasing in terms of severity: Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red.

Level 1-Vigilance: Green

Measures in force:

  • Private indoor or outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people
  • Maximum of 250 people at outdoor organized public settings
  • Indoor organized events have a maximum of 50 people (includes rented halls, places of worship, festival events, marriages, workplace or school celebrations)
  • Public venues such as concert halls, cinemas or theatres open, but people must be seated “relatively immobile” with staff supervision
  • Bars, brasseries, taverns, casinos and restaurants are open but have to be at 50% capacity
  • Inter-regional travel is authorized
  • Other measures include fines for non-compliance with face covering directives

Level 2- Early Warning: Yellow

The yellow warning is issued once transmission of the virus starts to grow. Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Nord-du-Québec, Nunavik and Terres-Cries-de-la-Baie-James are all in yellow alert.

For these regions, the basic Level-1 measures will be strengthened by increased inspections and greater crowd control in various venues to encourage compliance.

Communities will be asked to avoid unnecessary social contact in addition to all of the same measures in force from Level-1.

Level 3- Alert: Orange

Level-3 will be issued once the risk of transmission is deemed higher. The Montérégie, Laurentides, Lanaudière, Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Outaouais, Estrie, Mauricie-et-Centre-du-Québec and Bas-Saint-Laurent regions are all under the orange alert.

In these regions, new measures were introduced to target specific sectors of activity.

Measures in force: the major changes

  • Private indoor or outdoor gatherings limited to a maximum of 6 people OR 2 families
  • Activities in a public setting indoor and outdoor maximum of 25 people (includes rented halls, places of worship, festival events, marriages, workplace, school celebrations, barbecues or picnics)
  • Bars, brasseries, taverns, casinos and restaurants have a maximum of six people per table. Closing at midnight. No alcohol or food sales after 11 p.m. Mandatory customer name and contact list.
  • Stores and shopping: one person per household is recommended to go shopping. Delivery will be available for people at high risk.
  • Inter-regional travel is not recommended