Quebec to Ontario Sunday shopping during COVID-19 frustrates top doctor

Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SD&G – It’s not only public frustration in Cornwall and South Glengarry about weekend Quebec shoppers coming to SD&G during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s also bothering the region’s medical officer of health.

“I share your frustration. I hear you. We had a talk with our MPP Jim McDonell and he didn’t think that last weekend was a problem but I will return that (concern) to him. I will speak to him again. I’ve spoken to both MPPs and MPs. I still think it’s a concern,” Dr. Paul Roumeliotis told Cornwall Newswatch Monday.

As part of its restrictions, Quebec has forced businesses to close on Sunday. That’s led to weekend shoppers spilling over into Eastern Ontario with reports of Quebecers in shops in Lancaster, Cornwall and Morrisburg.

“Once again, the parking lots of the grocery stores were packed with Quebec-plated vehicles yesterday (April 19),” Cornwall resident Diane Lavinscas wrote in an email to Cornwall Newswatch. “Quebec has a high number of cases and we need to protect our community. We closed our border to the USA for this reason but it is apparent that we have a hot spot to the east of Ontario.”

The Quebec plates are not just people from Akwesasne shopping. “I have seen a few ‘chew out’ employees for not having products saying, I drove here from Quebec and some said, go home!” Facebook user Diane Louise wrote on the CNW Facebook page Tuesday.

Roumeliotis says he has also brought it to the Command Table that reports to Deputy Minister and Health Minister Christine Elliott. “I’m hoping that we can get some kind of direction. Apparently, I can’t order the O.P.P. to do this (block non-essential shoppers). It’s got to come from the ministry directly.”

“I have been raising this frequently. I think last weekend it was Easter, it was better. But I think, they shouldn’t be coming (here). We’re not permitted to go into Quebec, there’s checkpoints so I think we should limit that as well.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Quebec is the country’s coronavirus hotbed, accounting for over half of all Canadian cases and 56 per cent of all Canadian deaths.