Police presence increased in parks as Montreal officials plead for an end to gatherings
MONTREAL — With a climbing rate of COVID-19 cases in Montreal, the city is getting serious about cracking down on public gatherings.
Police presence has been stepped up in six of the city’s largest parks — Mont-Royal, Jeanne-Mance, Laurier, Lafontaine Maissoneuve, the Lachine Canal — and officers won’t hesitate to hand out a fine of $1,000 to $6,000 for those who aren’t following physical distancing guidelines.
“Keep your distance, avoid non-essential travel,” said Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante in a Thursday afternoon news conference. “I want to put a lot of emphasis on this today.”
Montreal has recorded 480 new cases in the past 24 hours. There are currently 2,642 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Montreal. Of them, 17 have died, 149 are in hospital, 39 of which are in intensive care. As many as 148 health care workers in Montreal have also tested positive.
Plante implored Montrealers to remain in their neighbourhoods and limit any travel that is not essential.
Plante said people are free to get some fresh air, but they should go for a walk or run in their own neighbourhood, do groceries and go to the pharmacy in their neighbourhood and avoid moving throughout different parts of the city unless it’s essential.
Plante said that though she’d considered closing the large city parks to keep groups of people from gathering, she received many messages from Montrealers begging her to keep them open.
Many Montrealers don’t have access to a backyard or balcony and therefore need access to some greenery, but, she said, activity needs to be limited.
“Walking around to get fresh air? Yes. Drinking? No. Jogging in groups? No,” she said.
PARKING FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
The city will be providing parking vignettes for health care workers, making it easier for them to park close to their place of work. The parking vignettes will be distributed through the CHUM and the Montreal General Hospital.
The Palais des Congres is also offering free use of their parking lot for workers in the health care sector free.
BIXIS RETURN APRIL 15
Bixi service will resume on April 15, but again, Plante reminded Montrealers they are to be used for essential trips.
Public health officials said they gave the city the go-ahead because they view Bixi as an essential service, but also that it is as safe as taking public transit. She said like after using a bus or metro, Bixi riders shouldn’t touch their faces and should wash their hands after use.
Plante said guidelines for Bixi riders would be established and there would be daily cleaning.
PLANTE REACTS TO INCIDENT AT OPPOSITION LEADER’S HOME
Plante also called on opposition leader Lionel Perez to apologize for an incident at his home on Wednesday evening.
Police were called to his home after he had a musician friend performing in his front yard to celebrate his daughter’s engagement.
While Perez said no one was invited to the party — his daughter’s fiance’s was on a video call from New York and only immediate family was inside — but the incident caused many to look out on their balconies, or stop their walks to witness the event, causing an impromptu gathering of sorts.
Perez said earlier on Thursday while he felt he was respecting the guidelines, including physical distancing, he regretted the incident.
“I understand and with hindsight, it’s something I would do differently,” he said.
Plante had a message for Perez: “Nobody is above the rules,” she said, adding that citizens look to their elected officials to set an example.
“This raises questions about his ethics and judgment,” said Plante, adding that Perez should immediately apologize to Montrealers.