MONTREAL -- Quebec will allow groups of at most 10 people from a maximum of three households to gather outside as of Friday, Quebec Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault announced Wednesday.

Guilbault said people who gather outdoors - whether in parks or backyards, for example - will still need to heed public distancing guidelines as much as possible.

Indoor gatherings such as large family dinners are not yet permitted, Guilbault added.

"The situation remains fragile and we must remain cautious," Guilbault said. "But for now, it will allow us to see friends and enjoy the good weather that is coming. I think it will all do us good

She noted that the decision to ease the province's restrictions on gatherings was given the green light by Quebec's public health department.

Later Wednesday afternoon, Quebec announced its plan to gradually reopen hair salons and other personal grooming services in Quebec as of June 1, but only outside the areas of Montreal and Joliette, both of which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are now 3,718 people who have died of COVID-19 in Quebec, health authorities announced Wednesday, as confirmed cases in the province reached 44,775.

That’s up 71 from the 3,647 deaths reported Tuesday; COVID-19 cases in Quebec rose 578 from the 44,197 announced a day earlier.

There are 1,516 people being treated for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals as of Wednesday, down 268 from the 1,784 reported Tuesday. (Public health officials said a change in calculating COVID-19-related hospitalizations is the reason for the sharp decline.)

Of those in a hospital, 183 are in intensive care, up only three from the 180 reported 24 hours earlier.

The number of people in Quebec who have recovered from COVID-19 as of Wednesday was 12,882, up 385 from the 12,497 recoveries reported a day earlier.

With 22,317 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Montreal region remains the hardest hit in Quebec; you can see a regional breakdown of COVID-19 in the province here.

Quebec also recorded the first death among its provincial prison population. A Quebec civil liberties group, la Ligue des droits et Libertes, said in a statement Wednesday the 72-year-old inmate's death could have been prevented if authorities had reduced the number of seniors detained in provincial jails.

Guilbault said about two per cent of Quebec's inmate population has become infected with the virus, including about 60 people at the detention centre in Montreal that housed the inmate who died.

"Despite the impossibility of avoiding any cases of COVID (in provincial jails)," she said, "I consider that, in general, it is going relatively well in the prison network."

- The Canadian Press contributed to this report