Government restricts travel, adds testing

CALEB NICKERSON
OUTAOUAIS April 15, 2020
The provincial government clamped down on inter-regional travel on April 1, but it remains up to the individual officers manning the checkpoints to determine the punishment for travelling for non-essential services.
According to Surete du Quebec Spokesperson Eloise Cossette, officers are merely enforcing the edicts that have been given to them by the public health authorities.
“I think you should call our public health direction in regard to the rules, because what our officers are doing, it’s only applying the rules,” she said. “People from essential services can travel no problem, the problem is with people that want to go only for a ride or to go shopping in Ontario and then come back to Quebec.”
Travel between regions has been restricted to all but essential trips, which include: certain occupations, medical appointments, complying with a court order, picking up children due to custody arrangements, or humanitarian reasons, such as delivering food to a shut in, or visiting a dying family member.
According to the provincial government, anyone caught making a non-essential trip will be forced to self-isolate for 14 days.
Cottagers have been asked to remain at their primary residences, as Pontiac’s health care system is smaller and less equipped for an outbreak than larger centres.
The restrictions on inter-regional travel came into effect on April 1 with less only a morning’s notice. Police have also been given the mandate to fine anyone caught violating the restrictions or gathering in a group as well.
When asked about the specifics of how the rules were being enforced at the checkpoints, Cossette deflected the question to the local public health department.
“I’d prefer you ask the public health these questions, … we’re only applying their laws,” she said.
As of April 13, the Outaouais has 172 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with less than five in MRC Pontiac and 12 in MRC des Collines.
The majority of the cases for the region are in Gatineau, with 134. Public health officials have advised the population that the confirmed cases don’t accurately reflect the number of overall cases, due to limited testing, and to assume that the real total is much higher.
People without any symptoms can still spread the virus to others.
No one in the Outaouais has died yet due to COVID-19, but there have been 13 hospitalizations across the region, with four of those requiring intensive care. The CISSSO has isolated 17 employees who tested positive as well.
On April 7, local health authority CISSSO announced that several local hospitals, including the Shawville Community Hospital, would become evaluation clinics for those presenting symptoms.
The priority would be structured as follows: 1 – hospitalized patients with a clinical or radiological diagnosis compatible with COVID-19;
2 – symptomatic health care professionals who are in contact with patients;
3 – residents of CSHLDs or private senior’s residences who are symptomatic or exposed to an outbreak;
4 – symptomatic individuals living in remote, isolated or Inuit/First Nation’s communities who have limited access to a hospital;
5 – first responders, public safety or other essential service workers who are symptomatic;
6 – symptomatic people in the community, based on a direct recommendation from the public health authority.
Following the opening of these new evaluation centres in remote locations, as well as Gatineau, the temporary screening clinic in Hull was deemed to be no longer required, as the new criteria resulted in a lower volume of screenings.

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