QUEBEC CITY, QUE. -- Quebec's schools will largely stay open no matter how bad the next wave of the pandemic gets, the province's authorities said Thursday. 

Only certain schools would need to close their doors, and even then only "temporarily," in regions ultimately designated as "red" under Quebec's colour-coded COVID-19 alert system, said Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge.

The Legault government has begun giving more details of what regions will experience with various changes in colours within the system.

The opposition parties criticized the government this week for not laying the system out more clearly so that people know what to expect.

Roberge gave some more information at a press conference about how it will work for schools.

For example, if a region changes from "yellow" to "orange," schools will have to revert to sealed "class bubbles," which would also mean that extra-curricular activities would be halted, since they raise the possibility of students mingling outside bubbles, the minister said.

If a region turns "red" -- the highest level of alert, meaning the level of COVID-19 cases is extremely serious -- some schools could temporarily close, Roberge added. But this closure would not be "automatic," he said.

He did not say if there's an official document prepared containing this plan, and if so, whether he intends to make it public.


Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said to expect more explanations on Friday. Public Safety Minister Genevieve Guilbeault is set to announce them in a press conference, he said.

When asked if Quebec was planning to raise fines -- Ontario has just tabled a bill to raise its fines for public gathering violations, from $10,000 to $100,000 -- Dubé said that his colleagues are "in discussion on those things."

"I don't want to scoop what Genevieve will be telling you tomorrow, but I think you'll see [that] those decisions...are justified by the region they are in," he said.

--With files from The Canadian Press