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Canada Coronavirus: Quebec's efforts to 'slap down curve' appear to be working

02:26  30 march  2020
02:26  30 march  2020 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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a man wearing glasses: Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, gestures to explain how to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection as he responds to reporters during news conference on March 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. © Jacques Boissinot Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, gestures to explain how to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection as he responds to reporters during news conference on March 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City.

Even with Quebec reporting more than half of Canada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, there are signs that efforts to “slap down the curve” here are working, the province’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said Sunday.

At their daily update on the pandemic, Quebec Premier François Legault and Arruda both expressed relief that Quebec’s cases are not growing as fast as some scenarios had predicted.

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Legault announced that by Sunday afternoon, Quebec had 2,840 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 342 from the day before. That gives Quebec about 52 per cent of Canada’s total of 5,439 confirmed cases.

Legault said he was relieved that no new deaths from COVID-19 had occurred since Saturday, when 22 Quebecers were confirmed dead from the disease.

Legault commended Quebecers for staying home and following public health orders and stressed how important it is to keep spirits up.

“The more weeks go by in this difficult situation, the more important it is that we focus on keeping morale up and that we remain united,” the premier said. “Even though we are distanced and alone at home, it’s a paradox, but we have to be more united than ever.”

Legault noted that 28 more people have been hospitalized, for a total 192 Quebecers, including 72 in intensive care. Quebec has tested 58,000 people, he noted, which means Quebec is among the jurisdictions in the world that is testing the most people, proportionate to population.

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Legault said the province is prepared for the worst-case scenario, with 6,000 beds ready to accommodate COVID-19 cases. Still, the premier said he is encouraged by the fact that confirmed cases went up by only 14 per cent in the previous 24 hours, whereas in the past the day-over-day increase has been as much as 24 per cent.

“It doesn’t mean that tomorrow we won’t be back up by 24, 30 or 40 per cent, but let’s say the results, today, for me, are encouraging,” Legault said.

Arruda said he expects the number of cases and deaths to continue to grow, but added that the numbers are lower than he expected them to be at this point. He encouraged Quebecers to keep working to “flatten the curve” through obeying new travel restrictions, staying home and regular hand washing.

Arruda vigorously slapped his hand and punched the air during the news conference to illustrate the importance of flattening the curve to avoid a sudden and steep peak of cases that could overwhelm the health-care system.

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“What is happening is that we are extending the curve, the curve that we projected, and actually we are under,” the number of cases that some public health scenarios were predicting would be confirmed by now, he said.

While Arruda warned the number of infections and deaths will continue to increase, he said measures are already working to save lives.

“We have not yet attained a plateau … because we are stretching it — Paf! Paf! Paf! — from this high curve,” Arruda said, pounding the air down with his fist. “We are trying to make it stretch in time.”

Arruda said a slow plateau of cases may be “frustrating because it lasts longer” but it would mean fewer deaths and a functioning health-care system. Arruda added he believes Quebec is already seeing the effects of the measures that have been taken in the last two weeks, such as closing schools and non-essential businesses and obliging all returning travellers to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Legault said Quebecers should avoid hot spots like Montreal and the Eastern Townships. He said travel restrictions announced Saturday that will see police checkpoints on highways are designed to keep people from the south — where there are more cases — from entering communities in the northern and eastern parts of the province.

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“These are all regions where, proportionally, we have fewer people who are infected than in the southern part of Quebec,” Legault said. “What we want is for it to stay that way.”

Legault reminded everyone to follow public health guidelines still in place everywhere in the province.

“Don’t go out if it isn’t necessary,” the premier said. “If you do go out, stay two meters away from other people, even if it takes you a little longer to do your groceries. Go alone, rather than two people. And when you come back from groceries or your walk, wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds. That’s how we are going to win the fight of our lives.”

Montreal, meanwhile, has extended the 48-hour state of emergency it declared on Friday for five more days as public health officials reported 1,361 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Montreal island.

At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Montreal public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin said the number of confirmed cases has stabilized over the past three or four days. But she noted there are hot spots, including six Montreal boroughs — Côte-Saint-Luc, Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Rivière-des-Prairies, Plateau-Mont-Royal, Ville-Marie and LaSalle — that have more than 50 confirmed cases each.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the city is not yet at the point of closing bridges, cordoning off neighbourhoods or ordering people to stay inside at all times, because the majority of Montrealers are obeying public health guidelines. But because some continue to ignore those guidelines, Montreal Police will be increasing surveillance and issuing fines to individuals or businesses that break the rules.

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In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new money to help children, seniors, and others who may be struggling because of public health orders to isolate as much as possible at home. He pledged $7.5 million in new federal funding to allow the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) — a 24-hour-a-day telephone counselling line for children in distress — to hire more counsellors and train more volunteers. He also announced $9 million in funding for the United Way for programs to make sure isolated and vulnerable seniors get health check-in calls and grocery delivery.

Trudeau urged those who can to give to charities helping with this crisis, and generously. He encouraged people in distress to “look around to see the signs of solidarity”.

“And if you are in Montreal tonight, look at the Chaplain Bridge; it will be lit up with the colours of the rainbow,” Trudeau said. “I know these are hard times, but we can get through them together.”

mlalonde@postmedia.com

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