Quebec health officials announced 171 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, and three additional deaths related to the respiratory virus.
The increase in daily cases is its second-highest since June 12, behind Tuesday’s update of 180.
It’s also now the tenth straight day that Canada’s worst-hit province has recorded over 140 cases and the 14th straight day it has recorded over 100. Before the recent stretch, Quebec had not identified more than 140 cases since June 25. Between June 26 and July 11, it stayed below 100 daily cases except on two occasions.
Quebec’s testing numbers are reflective of its outputs from two days prior. In its latest 24-hour stretch, the province completed 16,440 tests for COVID-19. It marks the first time that the province has performed over 16,000 tests on back-to-back occasions.
Montreal remains the epicentre with 28,425 total cases, up by 85 since Friday. On July 11, officials asked anyone who’s been to a bar in the city since Canada Day to get tested, prompting thousands to come forward.
The spread of COVID-19 also continues to gain pace in surrounding areas of the city, in some cases in connection to bars and parties. The Montérégie region has 8,613 cases (up by 34), Lanaudière has 4,449 (up by eight), Laurentides region has 3,763 (up by 18), and Laval has 5,970 (up by 11).
According to Aaron Derfel of the Montreal Gazette, health officials said on Monday that there were 113 people who had tested positive after visiting bars, but it didn’t mean that they all contracted the virus at the drinking establishments. Of those cases, 65 of are believed to have been infected at three Montreal bars. Officials were also investigating eight cases linked to a possible fourth cluster.
Quebec officials have continued to keep bars open, which were given the green light on June 25 as part of a grand reopening announcement. Instead of closing them, Premier François Legault and health officials have pegged the rise in cases on private parties, a spike in transmission among family contacts, health-care workers, and also an increase in testing.
On July 9, Quebec did decide to enforce new restrictions on bars, such as reducing capacity to 50 per cent. It was a move that was implemented after people in Montérégie tested positive for COVID-19, following a visit to a bar in Brossard and a couple of house parties, which have led to at least 20 infections.
Even with additional measures, some Montreal bars have taken it upon themselves to close. According to the Montreal Gazette, two more bars in Montreal closed their doors Friday after realizing how difficult it was to enforce safety measures amid COVID-19.
“Due to the recent increase of COVID cases we have decided that the only possible way to protect our staff and customers is by closing the bar for the next 14 days,” said the management of the Stock Bar in a Facebook post. “It has become evident that social distancing in a bar is nearly impossible.”
Despite a recent uptick in cases in Quebec, the province will be allowing gatherings of up to 250 people starting Aug. 3, which is up from the previous limit of 50.
Among the province’s 58,414 total cases of COVID-19 are 50,703 people who have recovered, up by 88 since Friday. Of the 2,045 active cases in the province (up by 80), there are 206 in hospital (down by 14), while there remain 12 in intensive care.
Of the three most recent victims, two died in the province’s latest 24-hour stretch, while the other occurred before July 18.