MONTREAL -- For the second year in a row, it was an Easter marked by COVID-19 restrictions, but Montreal's devout found ways to celebrate and hope for better festive days ahead.

“It's the year of endurance. It's been a long time, many months, a year now,” said Montreal archbishop Christian Lepine. “People are tired, exhausted, so somehow small gestures of hope are important.”

For some, the best sign of hope was the city's warming weather, which allowed outdoor gatherings and celebrations of mass. Others gathered in the city's churches for socially distanced services. 

It was a marked difference from last year, when a COVID-19 vaccine seemed far off. Now, Quebecers have received over 1.5 million doses. Hundreds of thousands more are scheduled to be delivered in the coming weeks, but infectious disease expert Matthew Oughton warned that the province isn't in the clear yet.

“I think we're probably going to see, unfortunately, a lot more cases happening not only in Montreal, but probably other centres of Quebec before we get through this,” he said.

Like other doctors, Oughton has called for a full lockdown similar to that of last spring.

“If we wanted to really prevent transmission, (we need to) do a proper, full-on lockdown,” he said. “We have done a series of what I would call partial restrictions, partial lockdowns... If we're tired of this, let's do this right. Let's use the benefit of having gone through this for 14 months and use all the data we have to institute an effective measure, once and for all.”

Despite the clouds on the horizon, parishioners enjoyed the day of devotion.

“It's been up and down for everyone. It's still up and down, but today was an up,” said Lepine. “This weekend, for the last week, was an up. What's the next step? We'll see?”