Quebec gym owners back down on threat to defy COVID-19 orders, call for protests


MONTREAL — A group of Quebec fitness centre owners says its members are no longer planning to open Thursday in defiance of the government’s lockdown orders.

The owners released a statement Wednesday calling on their clients to instead join them in a series of protests outside their gyms and fitness studios on Thursday.

On Monday, a coalition of more than 250 gym owners threatened to open their doors this week, prompting a warning from Premier Francois Legault that they and their clients would be fined.

Legault has extended lockdown orders across regions under the government’s highest pandemic-alert levels — including Montreal and Quebec City — from Oct. 28 to Nov. 23. Bars, restaurant dining areas, gyms and entertainment venues have been ordered to close.

The gym owners say their protests on Thursday will conform to the provincial COVID-19 health regulations.

Quebec reported 17 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus Wednesday. Health authorities said they confirmed 929 cases of COVID-19 in the province in the past 24 hours.

Hospitalizations dropped by one compared with the prior day, for a total of 526, and of those, 89 people were in intensive care, a decrease of two.

Quebec has reported a total of 102,814 cases of COVID-19 and 6,189 deaths attributed to the virus. The province conducted 20,667 COVID-19 tests on Oct. 26, the last day for which testing data is available.

There are currently eight long-term care homes where more than 25 per cent of residents have active cases of COVID-19, the health ministry said — twice as many as a week ago.

Six private seniors residences have more than a quarter of their residents with active cases of the disease, a situation the Health Department described as “critical.”