Quebec confirms 17 cases of coronavirus

Quebec’s health ministry has confirmed there are 17 cases of the novel coronavirus in the province as a swath of universities, CEGEPs and schools are closed for the day on Friday as a preventive measure.

The province declared the four new cases late Thursday night. There are 266 people under investigation for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and nearly 800 people have tested negative.

In Montreal, concerned residents are flocking to grocery stores to stock up in case of quarantine. Customers should expect to face long lines due to the large number of people.

As the number of cases quickly continues to rise in Canada, the provincial government introduced exceptional measures on Thursday to prevent the spread of the virus.

Quebecers returning from international travel or who experience flu-like symptoms are asked to put themselves in voluntary isolation for 14 days. Government workers — including health-care professionals and teachers — who have recently returned from abroad are ordered to stay home for that period of time.

Premier François Legault has declared indoor events of more than 250 people are prohibited. He is urging organizers of other large gatherings to reconsider as well.

The Quebec government has not ruled out more drastic measures if the situation escalates.

As a result, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced the city is closing all sports and cultural centres until further notice amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Public pools, sports centres and libraries are closed as of Friday until further notice.

Montreal’s public transit system is still accessible, but the public is being asked to wash their hands after using the Metro or bus.

In Quebec, anyone who experiences COVID-19 symptoms is asked to contact Info-Santé at 811. Caseworkers can help individuals book appointments at one of the three designated clinics.

Anyone who has questions or requires more information about the virus can contact Quebec’s hotline at 1-877-644-4545.

— With files from Global News’ Alessia Simona Maratta and the Canadian Press

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