OTTAWA -- Gatineau’s Mayor supports keeping the Ottawa-Gatineau border closed to non-essential travel until it’s “not necessary anymore” to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin says he understands people want to go to the cottage or do other activities on either side of the Ottawa River, but the first priority is dealing with novel coronavirus.

“Ottawa is a hot zone, we’re a cold zone and we have to protect ourselves,” said Pedneaud-Jobin in an interview with CTV News Ottawa’s Leah Larocque.

“So as long as it’s needed, I’m going to defend that decision by the Quebec Government.”

Last week, Quebec Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault announced the travel restrictions will be eased in the Outaouais region on May 11, but will remain in place at the Ottawa-Gatineau border until further notice.

Pedneaud-Jobin tells CTV News Ottawa that police stopped approximately 20,000 vehicles over the weekend at the Gatineau-Ottawa border.

“Roughly, nine per cent were sent back home. So that’s a lot of people, that’s 1,700 people who were not supposed to be travelling.”

Gatineau Police and the Surete du Quebec have been setting up random checkpoints at the bridges between Ottawa and Gatineau since April 1.  Over the weekend, Gatineau Police were also stopping pedestrians and cyclists at the Alexandra Bridge.

Pedneaud-Jobin understands residents on both sides of the Ottawa River would like to see the restrictions lifted, but says it can’t be a political decision.

“It has to be based on health principles, and it’s clear that the situation is very different on both sides of the river,” said Pedneaud-Jobin.

“I understand that many people, for example, would like to go to their cottage, but between the grandmother that’s life is threatened and someone who wants to go to the cottage, I’ll always choose the grandmother.”

Pedneaud-Jobin admits the Quebec Government’s restrictions on non-essential travel between Ottawa and Gatineau impacts people’s quality of life, but he wants to keep the checkpoints in place “until it’s not necessary anymore.”