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17 fined at Montreal anti-curfew protest amid soaring COVID-19 case numbers in Quebec

COVID-19 case numbers continued to soar in Quebec on Saturday as it became the first province to impose a curfew on its residents.

Premier François Legault announced earlier this week that Quebecers will have to stay home from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in an effort to prevent people from gathering in defiance of public health guidelines.

READ MORE: Quebec reports record 3,127 new COVID-19 cases, 41 more deaths as curfew begins

The provincewide curfew took effect on Saturday evening and will be in effect until at least Feb. 8. The new rules apply to everyone except essential workers, people walking their dogs and those on a short list of other exceptions, with violators facing fines of up to $6,000.

In a social media message, Legault said the province’s hospitals were approaching a “tipping point” where it would be forced to delay treatment for all but the most urgent cases.

He said the curfew would help stop “even the smallest” gatherings.

READ MORE: Heavy police presence expected across Quebec as 8 p.m. curfew starts Saturday

“It’s the sum of all these little infringements of the rules that feed the virus,” he wrote.

The province broke the 3,000-case mark for the first time on Saturday.

As the curfew took effect on Saturday evening, police lined the streets of Montreal’s Plateau district and quickly broke up a small protest there.

“I think it’s abuse of power. People need to put their foot down,” said Michael Pengue, who said he’d already been ticketed at an anti-mask protest.

The group coordinating the protest told Global News demonstrations were planned in nearly 30 cities across the province. They believed all would have between 50 and 100 demonstrators.

At the Montreal protest, some decided to leave before 8 p.m. to avoid being ticketed, but others decided to put the curfew to the test.

“I just want to see what happens, that’s it,” said Ali Bazzi.

A few dozen people marched through residential streets chanting and banging pots and pans as the clock struck eight. They were followed closely by a strong police presence. Police ended the protest at about 8:15 p.m., as they started detaining people and handing out fines.

Montreal police said they gave out 17 tickets, and had no arrests to report.

Another protest in Quebec City resulted in fines of over $1,500 being issued to about 20 demonstrators, police said.

Quebec has logged 226,233 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, and has counted 8,647 deaths.

–with files from Dan Spector and Alessia Maratta, Global News

Click to play video: Coronavirus: Quebec public security minister spells out rules around curfew

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