MONTREAL -- As the curfew lifts, and restaurant terrasses welcome new customers, Quebec's National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) says the province can still avoid a fourth COVID-19 wave -- only if residents stick to the gradual reopening plan.

According to INSPQ modelling, the province's plan could work very well if people follow the rules and don’t jump the gun on increasing contacts and relaxing precautions.

The words of caution came from Jocelyne Sauvé, vice-president of scientific affairs at the institute.

Modelling it released Friday predicts a gradual drop in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the greater Montreal area.

“Greater Montreal” includes the metropolis, Laval, Montérégie, the Laurentians and Lanaudière regions.

Montreal and Laval will remain on the "red" alert level at least until June 7, after which gyms are expected to reopen and indoor dining will be allowed.

In the other regions of greater Montreal, the relaxed rules will come into force a week earlier, on May 31.

Laval University professor Marc Brisson warns, however, that the number of cases could start to increase again in June if people let down their guard too quickly.

Children and adults who have not yet been vaccinated are most at risk, said Brisson, who conducts coronavirus modelling for the INSPQ.

The government said it was particularly concerned about private gatherings indoors after the curfew was lifted on Friday.


According to Brisson, modeling predicts an increase in hospitalizations if Quebecers drop their guard too quickly, but that any uptick would likely be less intense than what was seen in the third wave.

New hospitalizations in the Montreal area could reach 30 per day in early July, he said.

The modelling also predicted that the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the fall will also depend on vaccination rates.

If 89 per cent of Quebecers over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, there will be a minimal increase in new cases and hospitalizations after the start of the fall school year.

If only 71 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated in the fall, and social contacts return to pre-pandemic levels, then Quebec could report 1,000 new cases per day by October, along with dozens of daily hospitalizations.

According to the INSPQ, about 60 per cent of the Quebecers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday morning. Just 6.1 per cent of Quebecers have gotten their second.

This article by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 28, 2021 with financial assistance from the Facebook and The Canadian Press news exchanges.