Quebec's lockdown restrictions will be partially lifted, but the province's curfew will remain in place
MONTREAL -- Premier Francois Legault announced that with Quebec's daily new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations due to the virus declining, stores, hair salons and museums will be allowed to reopen on Feb. 8.
However, the province's curfew will remain in place, as Legault stressed that Quebecers must keep up their efforts to combat the pandemic. Visits to private homes will continue to be prohibited.
“I can understand how some owners of stores felt," said Legault. "It's not easy. Although we helped them financially, I understand they are ready, and they did it well during the period they were allowed to re-open. I think we can go with a certain level of certainty into stores.”
Restrictions such as the curfew have been uniform across the province since they first went into effect in January, but Legault, who was accompanied by public health chief Horacio Arruda and Health Minister Christian Dube, said the province will be reverting to the colour-coded system that had been in place prior.
Six of Quebec's regions will be designated as orange zones: Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madelein, Bas-St-Laurent, Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Cote-Nord, Nord du Quebec and Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean. In those areas, curfew will remain in place, but will begin at 9:30 p.m. Dube noted that those regions account for only 10 per cent of Quebec's population, and that the vast majority of Quebecers will be living under the updated red zone restrictions.
In the rest of the province, curfew will continue to begin at 8 p.m.
Restaurant dining rooms, movie theatres and indoor sports will also be allowed to resume in orange zones as of Feb. 8, though with restrictions. Restaurants will be by reservation only, a registry of customers will be kept to easy contact tracing in case of a COVID-19 outbreak and tables will be limited to two adults, either from the same household bubble or two separate ones, and no limit on the number of children.
However, household gatherings will continue to be banned in orange zones.
“That is one of the positive effects of the curfew, it reduces the incidents of ending up in other people's homes," said Aruda.
In the red zones, which include the heavily populated Montreal and Quebec City regions, outdoor activities will be permitted to resume, though limited to a maximum of four people from four different households.
That number will be raised to eight people in orange zones.
The updated measures are tentatively scheduled to last until Feb. 22, though Arruda and Legault said what happens on that date will depend on how the pandemic evolves.
CEGEPS, UNIVERSITIES PERMITTED TO RE-OPEN
Some universities and CEGEPs, depending on the situation, will also be allowed to increase on-campus activities, and Legault said some outdoor activities will also be permitted.
"The situation has improved in recent weeks. The number of cases and hospitalizations has decreased. I want to thank you all for that. But we have to remain very careful. We can only lift certain measures very gradually. I'm announcing that from Feb. 8, everywhere in Quebec, stores, hair dressers and museums will reopen throughout Quebec, and will gradually reopen CEGEPs and universities," said Legault.
The premier said it's his hope that students at post-secondary institutions will be able to attend class once per week, but said that what level each school is willing to re-open will be up to them, for now.
“For the time being it's a request. We wish to do things gradually," he said. "At the beginning, it will be a voluntariy basis but I'm having discussions... We want students to go back as quickly as possible, once a week.”
Arruda noted that even at schools that opt to partially re-open, public health restrictions will be enforced.
“There will be guidelines," he said. "There will be distancing, people will have to wear masks. We usually have excellent collaboration from universities and CEGEPs.”