MONTREAL -- The decision to allow public gatherings of up to 250 people comes with a relatively low risk of COVID-19 transmission compared to other riskier social activities, Quebec's public health director said Monday.

Dr. Horacio Arruda said there weren't any COVID-19 outbreaks associated with public outdoor or indoor events at the previous 50-person limit.

The measure that came into effect Monday applies only to public venues such as theatres, concert halls, houses of worship and indoor amateur sporting events, and stipulates that measures such as physical distancing and mask-wearing must be respected.

The limit on private gatherings remains at 10 people.

The province's decision to change the gathering limit from 50 to 250 was met with some concern from those who questioned the wisdom of the decision at a time when cases were rebounding slightly.

But Arruda said people are much more likely to hug or ignore physical distancing rules at small private parties than at the opera or a large concert hall.

"We really think that in a space large enough to have 250 persons who can go to a show, sit in a chair separated by 1.5 metres, I think the risk there is very acceptable compared to a party of 30 people," he said.

Health Minister Christian Dube stressed that the new rules applied in "auditoriums, not assembly locations," where distancing can be maintained.

Meanwhile, Quebec reported another 123 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours as well as two more deaths. Hospitalizations remained stable at 172, while the number of people in intensive care increased by one to 18.

Quebec has recorded 59,722 infections since the pandemic began, with 5,683 deaths.

Dube challenged Quebecers to work together to reduce the number of active cases in the province before the start of a potential second wave.

"Lets remain vigilant," he said.

"I think we can improve, and in conclusion I would like to reduce the number of daily cases we can see in the next weeks to make sure we are ready to start the second wave with a lower number."

He also asked travellers who are returning home after Quebec's two-week construction holiday to get tested if they found themselves in any risky situations

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2020.