Quebec's announcing its summer reopening plan on Tuesday. What will it say?
READ OUR LATEST UPDATE HERE: Quebec to end curfews and allow restaurants to open in late May, reopen bars June 14
Quebecers will be learning on Tuesday what their reopening will look like over the summer as their province -- hopefully -- hits its vaccination benchmarks and sees COVID-19 gradually fade.
Government leaders have promised for the last two weeks that they were working on the plan, and they're now set to unveil it on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Quebec Premier François Legault will hold a 5 p.m. news conference alongside Health Minister Christian Dube and public health director Horacio Arruda.
But what will be in the announcement? The best clue so far has come from looking at Saskatchewan's reopening plan, which Legault has said he wants to emulate.
Saskatchewan's plan was based, in turn, on the United Kingdom's, but it moves faster, opening up almost every type of normal activity over the course of about six to eight weeks.
If Saskatchewan ends up sticking to its predicted dates, almost all activities would be reopened by mid-July.
The plan works by clearly outlining the three steps of reopening in advance and telling people what new activities will reopen at each phase. But it leaves the timing open to change -- it has announced a tentative timeline but says final decisions will be subject to the COVID-19 data at the time.
A 'CARROT' FOR GETTING VACCINATED
The most important part of that data is vaccination goals. Saskatchewan has said that it is setting three vaccination benchmarks: 70 per cent first-dose coverage among those over 40, then 70 per cent of those over 30, then 70 per cent of those over 18.
It will wait three weeks after each benchmark is achieved to move to the next phase of reopening, giving time for the shots to take effect.
A public health expert in Saskatchewan said he liked the idea of tying the phases to vaccination benchmarks, saying it will help motivate people to get vaccinated. And, of course, reopening isn't safe until a measure of herd immunity is reached.
How is Quebec's vaccination campaign looking, by comparison?
It has said it wants to vaccinate 75 per cent of adults by June 24. And it has long since reached that number among those 60 and over. Currently, however, just 43.3 per cent of those 16 to 59 have gotten a shot. (The daily number is available in chart 2.1 on this web page.)
More detailed data has also been posted by Health Minister Christian Dubé, showing still more encouraging numbers.
If the data also takes into account those who have made appointments, Quebecers 40 and up have mostly reached the goal, and it's the younger groups, whose vaccine eligibility just opened, who still have a ways to go.
WHAT'S IN SASKATCHEWAN'S PLAN?
If Quebec's plan looks like Saskatchewan's, what can people expect?
In Step One of Saskatchewan's plan, estimated to start in late May, restaurants and bars will be reopened with a maximum of six people to a table.
The limit for indoor and outdoor private gatherings will be set at a maximum of 10 people, 30 people for public indoor gatherings and 150 people for public outdoor gatherings.
Other restrictions will remain in place, including for conference and banquet halls, casinos, bingo halls, movie theatres, art galleries and libraries. Mask-wearing will continue.
Step Two can begin three weeks after Saskatchewan has given a first dose to 70 per cent of people over 30, but the province foresees reaching it in the third week of June.
Authorities will lift capacity and people-per-table thresholds for shops, restaurants and bars. It will expand private indoor gatherings to 15 people and all public gatherings, indoor and outdoor, to 150.
At this point, it will ease restrictions for conference and banquet halls, casinos, bingo halls, movie theatres, art galleries and libraries. Masks will still be mandatory.
The last step, Step Three, will likely bring new rules around gathering sizes and indoor masking, "based on the progress of the first two steps,” the plan says.
If everything happens like clockwork, Saskatchewan would reach that step in the second week of July.
NOTES OF CAUTION FROM AN EXPERT
A Montreal epidemiologist, McGill's Dr. Matthew Oughton, told CTV News that he likes the general idea of Saskatchewan's plan and wants Quebec to emulate the idea of "successive steps spaced far enough apart (three weeks) to allow for immunity to fully develop following vaccination."
Spacing them out also allows time to ensure that new community transmission of COVID-19 that arises from the reopened activities "remains under control after each step," he said.
But while Saskatchewan's plan is based on vaccination, Oughton said, he would like to see Quebec's plan incorporate data around disease transmission, too.
"This could be R value," which means the virus's transmissibility at any given time -- a number the province tracks, or the positivity rate of all COVID-19 tests done, another important indicator.
He also said Quebec should take into account how many people have only a first dose and not both, since that number is key in making vulnerable populations less susceptible to infection.
He also cautioned the government against sounding too definite in its timeline, especially given the fact that new variants and new outbreaks of variants continue to pop up.
"As part of the messaging, it needs to be made clear that this plan is not immutable," Oughton said. "If circumstances change then the deconfinement plan needs to change too," if, for example, a previously rare and very transmissible variant suddenly creates an outbreak in Quebec.
An earlier version of this story mistakenly included some details from Saskatchewan's step-by-step reopening plan from 2020. The story has been updated to include only the plan from 2021. CTV regrets the error.