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As cases rise, pandemic restrictions drop again in Quebec

MONTREAL – There was a semblance of normality in Montreal.

Couples hunched over steaks and poutines in the neighborhood’s famous bistros. Young people flock to comedy shows and CrossFit classes in the parks. The shopping sprees, even if armed with masks and disinfectants.

But this week the sense that normal life was gradually returning was reversed when Quebec, faced with a resurgence of coronavirus cases, became the first province in Canada to reintroduce severe closure measures – including the closure of restaurants, cinemas and theaters and the ban on home visits to friends or family, with some exceptions.

“The situation has become critical,” Quebec Prime Minister François Legault said Monday night, complaining that people were loosening their vigilance and prioritizing entertainment. “If we don’t want our hospitals to be submerged, if we want to limit the number of deaths, we must act forcefully.”

The alarm has also rocked Ontario, where some cities are publishing record case numbers again and some new and modest restrictions have been imposed, including closing strip bars and banning alcohol sales after 11pm.

Canadians have until recently felt some satisfaction with the country’s approach to containing the virus. Most provinces moved quickly in March to close schools and businesses. The border with the United States has been closed and some provinces have restricted travelers from other parts of Canada, a restriction still in place.

Under the new Quebec rules, which take effect Thursday, people will be prohibited from inviting guests into the home, except for people requiring a carer, childcare, or maintenance services. Museums, bars and libraries will be closed. Churches, synagogues and mosques will be limited to 25 people.

People who congregate outside should also stay within two meters, or about 6.6 feet, of each other. However, schools, which have been affected by dozens of coronavirus cases, will remain open, as will gyms, hotels and hairdressers.

The new restrictions will be imposed for 28 days and will apply to three regions of Quebec, including Montreal.

In Ontario last weekend, a group of mostly young drivers flocked to a resort community and commandeered its roads for illegal racing. Most of the crowd members wore no masks or withdrew socially. Overwhelmed, the police sealed off the city.

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