(AP) — The French-speaking nation of Quebec is on the brink of a new pandemic with the coronavirus killing an estimated 500,000 people, and experts fear the disease will soon spread further west, particularly in Ontario.
The French language is widely spoken in Quebec, and the province has been under a state of emergency since the coronivirus pandemic began in late 2015.
The emergency law was passed in March and has remained in place.
While many in Quebec are aware of the threat posed by the virus, it has largely remained hidden, even among their own government.
In a telephone interview, Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday he was worried about the spread of the virus in Ontario, which has a large Muslim population and where Muslims are the largest group of immigrants in the province.
“We are concerned about the possibility that this will spread to other regions in the world,” he said.
“Our first concern is the spread in Canada, we have the highest number of people with the disease and it is our priority to make sure that we don’t have an influx in Quebec.”
Quebec is on a path to a third-straight pandemic, which would require the province to adopt a public health strategy, which is a high priority in the government’s plan to contain the virus.
The province has struggled to contain its pandemic in the past and has been plagued by a high number of cases and deaths in recent months.
In February, Couillard was forced to resign after he admitted that he had misled the public about the number of confirmed cases and said he was trying to get more accurate data on the virus before it reached Canada.
In his resignation speech, Couillon said he had “repeatedly misled” the public and had made several “mistakes” in the course of his work as premier.
The latest deaths in the country have been particularly alarming for the premier, who has said he hopes the virus will be contained in Canada.
Couillard said he is not surprised that more people are dying.
“This is not the end of the story,” he told reporters Tuesday.
“In the past, in certain areas, in Quebec specifically, there has been an increase of cases.
In some regions, especially in Montreal, there were increases of cases.”