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People wait to get tested at a drive through COVID-19 clinic, in Longueuil, Que., on Sept. 16, 2020.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Quebec reported 16 more deaths Thursday as it began the first day of new restrictions meant to flatten a spike in COVID-19 infections, while Ontario was dealing with a backlog of more than 82,000 tests and a hospital outbreak in Calgary grew.

Partial lockdowns in the Montreal area, Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches region south of the provincial capital are to last at least 28 days.

Bars, casinos, concert halls, cinemas, museums and libraries are to be shuttered and restaurants will be limited to takeout.

Private gatherings are prohibited and people cannot have any visitors from another address at their homes, with caregivers or maintenance workers among the few exceptions.

Outdoor gatherings are forbidden, masks are mandatory for demonstrations, and police have the power to hand out hefty fines to those who flout the rules.

On Thursday, Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said businesses, including restaurants and bars forced to close as part of Quebec’s partial lockdown, will be eligible for up to $15,000 in loan forgiveness to help them cover certain fixed costs.

Those businesses will be able to get loans to pay for expenses including municipal taxes, mortgage interest, electricity and rent not covered by an existing federal program. Up to 80 per cent of the loan amount – to a maximum of $15,000 – will be forgivable, Mr. Fitzgibbon told reporters at a news conference.

There will be no new provincial support for workers, Mr. Fitzgibbon said, because the province doesn’t want to duplicate aid that is being provided by the federal government.

The new deaths brought Quebec’s total to 5,850. It had 933 new cases and the number of people in hospital rose by 13 to 275. Forty-six people were in intensive care.

In Ontario, there were 538 new COVID-19 cases and three new deaths. There were 162 people in hospital, including 36 in intensive care.

Nearly 40,000 tests were completed since Ontario’s last daily report, but there were still more than 82,000 samples waiting to be processed.

In Alberta, a technical glitch prevented 5,000 people who tested negative for the novel coronavirus from getting their results by phone auto-dialler or text. Those affected made up less than 3 per cent of the 224,000 tests completed between Sept. 3 and 29.

Anyone with a positive result in that time frame was informed by direct phone call.

Alberta Health Services said Thursday the problem had been corrected and delayed results were being delivered.

Also in Alberta, nearly 300 staff at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary were isolating as the number of COVID-19 infections at the busy hospital continued to grow. The Foothills is a major centre for trauma, high-risk obstetrics and stroke patients. Many of the cases are linked to cardiac units, including intensive care.

As of Thursday, 35 patients, 29 workers and three visitors had contracted the virus. Five patients had died.

Staff restrictions and a reduced number of in-patient beds have meant 45 of 260 planned surgeries at the hospital were been postponed.

The Health Quality Council of Alberta, a provincial agency, said a survey done between May 25 and June 29 found 30 per cent of more than 11,000 respondents said they delayed seeking health care because of the pandemic. Of those, more than one-fifth said doing so affected their health “greatly” or “quite a bit.”

Also on Thursday, Manitoba went live with the national COVID Alert app as the province reported 36 new cases.

Quebec is to follow in the next few days. British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are in the final stages of discussions.

Ottawa is in talks with all remaining provinces that have not yet adopted the app.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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