On Friday, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante declared a state of emergency on the island pursuant to section 42 of Quebec's Civil Protection Act. The action came a week after the Montreal Police were given emergency powers. The Mayor went to great lengths that this did not mean that the city was in “lockdown” or “quarantine.”
The decision was taken in consultation with Quebec public health authorities on a day that the city reached a total of some 971 Corona cases out of the provinces total of 2,021. The primary driver was to ensure that the city’s homeless could be directed to the main shelter at the old Royal Victoria Hospital. Homeless persons are not only suffering from the virus and need assistance but may be passing it on to others at a higher rate.
"The most vulnerable in our society need us," Plante said. "Several day centres have had to close and the number of places in shelters has been reduced, leaving hundreds of homeless people without food, no place to rest, no protection."
The state of emergency also gives police wider powers to break up all public gatherings, clear groups out of parks and public spaces and even intervene and separate people on the street if they are not respecting social distancing guidelines. Though the Mayor said the police were not instructed to give tickets, that sanction is now within their powers particularly if they recognize certain people repeatedly ignoring instructions.
In response to questions, Public Health director Dr. Mylène Drouin said that sealing Montreal off by closing the bridges was nowhere on the radar, but admitted that the city would work step by step with Quebec public health and that the next steps would be determined. Bridge closures were in the powers of the city now she did admit.