OTTAWA -- Motorists will be greeted by random police checkpoints along the Gatineau-Ottawa border as Quebec ramps up its battle to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Quebec Government announced that starting at 12 p.m. on April 1, police will be deployed in the Outaouais region aiming to “limit non-essential movements” between Ontario and Quebec.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Surete du Quebec and Gatineau Police set up checkpoints on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge and Champlain Bridge. A checkpoint was set up on the Alexandra Bridge early Wednesday evening.

In a statement, Gatineau Police said the “purpose of this new measure is to restrict non-essential travel between provinces and regions out of public health concerns.”

The Quebec Government insisted the measures will not affect essential workers and health care and services.

Gatineau's transit service, STO, says service on both sides of the river will not be impacted.

Gatineau Police say at the checkpoints, police will assess on a case-by-case basis whether or not the travel is essential, for instance:

  • To get to work if teleworking is not an option
  • For medical appointments or care, or
  • For humanitarian reasons

Anyone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19, have recently travelled or have been in close contact with a person showing symptoms of COVID-19 are not allowed to leave their home in Quebec.

Motorists are being told to expect to see random Gatineau Police checkpoints at the Alexandra Bridge, Portage Bridge, Chaudieres Bridge, Champlain Bridge, Masson-Angers ferry and the intersection of route 148 and Terry Fox Drive. The Surete du Quebec was stationed at the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge on Wednesday.

On Twitter, MNA and minister responsible for the Outaouais, Mathieu Lacombe, said the measures were “difficult, but necessary.”

The Federal Government says while the actions are tough, they agree it’s necessary to stop the spread of novel coronavirus.

“I would like to offer my strongest support to the leaders who have taken these actions and to commend them,” said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister.

Ottawa Police won’t patrol the Ontario-Quebec border

The City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police received no advance warning about the new measures to limit non-essential travel between Ottawa and Gatineau.

Mayor Jim Watson told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that Ottawa Police have “no plans” to put officers at the Ontario side of the interprovincial bridge.

“We do not plan on putting up any spot checks on our side of the river.”

Speaking later in the day with CTV News Ottawa, Watson said Ottawa Police will continue to monitor potential traffic impacts, but there will be no checkpoints here.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to be sustained to have that number of police looking at five bridge crossings between Gatineau and Ottawa.”

On Twitter, Councillor Mathieu Fleury said he disagreed with the Quebec Government’s move to limit travel between Ottawa and Gatineau, adding “this will add stress to essential workers” living in the two cities.

Western Quebec

Checkpoints to limit non-essential travel between Ontario and Quebec will also be set up in western Quebec.

The CISSS de l’Outaouais said police will also be setting up random checkpoints in Pontiac and Papineau.

“The CISSS de l’Outaouais welcomes these new measures which will certainly have an important impact in limiting the spread of COVID-19,” said the health unit in a statement.

On Saturday, Quebec police began setting up checkpoints in other regions across the province, including between Quebec and New Brunswick and Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Roadside checks are also in place at various strategic locations along the American border.