A tale of two Quebecs: province to announce relaxed COVID-19 measures next week
QUEBEC CITY -- Quebec is expected to relax some of its COVID-19 protocols on Feb. 8, but not everywhere, as the spread of COVID-19 has created "two Quebecs," according to Health Minister Christian Dubé.
“What is developing more and more are two kinds of Quebecs here,” said the minister during a Thursday press conference. “One is Montreal, and the greater area, and then the rest of Quebec.”
Dubé was joined by Premier Francois Legault and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda on Thursday as reporters asked about whether the province would maintain the province-wide 8 p.m. curfew beyond the original four-week period.
Officials maintained more details would be released next week, but Legault and Dubé said they believed the curfew is responsible for the lowered daily case counts in recent days.
“Perhaps I'm going to put my foot in my mouth,” said Dubé, declining to give further details on the relaxed rules. “The curfew is working, and we can see that it works.”
“What is encouraging is that we can see how [cases] have gone down.”
What is clear is that Montreal has remained the pandemic hotspot for the province, recording daily increases in cases well above any other region in Quebec.
While it remains unclear what the relaxed measures will be, Legault urged people not to get their hopes up.
“There are going to be some loosening of the measures on the eighth of February, but the vast majority of them will be kept,” he said.
“I don't want the expectations to be too high.”
LEGAULT DOUBLES DOWN ON TRUDEAU
Citing fears of U.K. COVID-19 variant spreading in Quebec, the premier doubled down on his demands to Trudeau to limit travel to-and-from Canada.
According to Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province is investigating what they believe to the seventh case of the U.K. variant, which researchers say is potentially significantly more contagious.
Legault said “it would be a catastrophe” for the U.K. variant to gain momentum in the province.
“It's urgent that we either ban non-essential international travel or impose quarantine in hotels for travellers.”
Legault said the province had considered imposing stricter rules on international travellers entering Quebec, but he had been advised that the risk of legal challenges was too high.
Quebec could more easily intruduce rules on interprovincial travel, but they would be difficult to enforce, according to the premier.
This week, Manitoba announced Canadian travellers will need to quarantine for two weeks after entering the province.
Legault told reporters that Quebec would have difficulty enforcing a similar policy because of the close working relationships between residents of Gatineau and Ottawa, two sister-cities divided by a provincial border.
“In practice, it would be tough to control all the entry from Ontario,” he said.