Quebec to end curfews and open restaurants in late May, reopen bars June 14
MONTREAL -- As of May 31, the "vast majority" of Quebec regions will start to look a little more like normal under a new three-step reopening plan unveiled Tuesday.
That day, most of the province will be declared an orange zone: restaurants and gyms will be open -- with some restrictions -- and high-school students will be back in class full-time.
Two weeks later, by June 14, the province will go to a yellow zone. Team sports will start, and people will be able to visit one other household again. Bars will throw open their doors, and slightly ahead of that, starting June 11, their terrasses will open.
And by the end of June, even more relaxed rules will come into play as Quebec moves into the green zone. Up to 10 people will be able to get together indoors. Outdoor festivals will be allowed with up to 2,500 people.
Some measures are coming even sooner than these three official steps, provincial leaders explained in a press conference.
As of May 28, curfews will end everywhere in the province, restaurants will be able to open their terrasses, and people will be allowed small outdoor gatherings of eight people in their backyards.
- See the full timeline below
"This is a big day. A big step," Premier François Legault said Tuesday.
He praised Quebecers, "generation for generation," for doing "their duty as citizens" and getting vaccinated promptly, allowing the province to predict reaching its vaccination benchmark -- three-quarters of the population with a first shot -- more than a week early.
IT'S NOT 'CARTE BLANCHE,' EXPERTS STRESS
It's crucial, however, to respect the slow rollout of the three-step process, authorities said at the press conference.
Some regions, after all, still have emergency measures, said Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. The province isn't ready to do something like lift the curfew immediately, he said.
The progression of steps is designed to prevent a quick explosion of case numbers, to allow public health to keep a close eye on the situation, and to allow more people to get their first shots and to build antibodies, which takes about 10 to 14 days after getting the shot.
"We still have to respect the measures in May and June, because that is what will allow us to get to green later," said Arruda.
"If people start behaving as if they were living in a green zone, at the end of May or beginning of June... we could see an increase in the numbers," he said.
However, if there are outbreaks, the province isn't planning to "yo-yo," as it has been accused of doing in the past. The solution at this point is to simply move more slowly through the three steps, Arruda said.
"We do not plan on tightening up the measures again, on going backwards," he said.
While the three didn't say so explicitly, most of the activities allowed over the summer reopening seem to also still require a mask, at least until a person has two vaccine doses, which won't apply to most Quebecers for months.
While Arruda and Legault repeatedly referred to "most regions" as they described the plan, Arruda confirmed that Montreal and Laval appear on track to go with the timeline given.
Those currently in emergency zones, such as parts of the Bas-St-Laurent, will need to wait at least 14 days after the ending of emergency measures to begin the preliminary reopening stage.
A public health expert, Dr. Donald Vinh, said he thinks overall the plan is responsible, as Quebecers have "regained some control" over the virus.
The main danger, he said, is the behavioural side of things -- the "wild card" of whether people will continue to follow the rules.
"What you don't want is for some people to interpret this as a carte blanche, a free pass," he said, to "try and exploit this renewed freedom beyond what's requested, byond what we can regulate."
The variants are still a concern, and full reopening is not possible until 75 per cent of the province has two doses, he said.
AHEAD OF SCHEDULE ON VACCINES
Quebec looks to be more than a week ahead of schedule in reaching its current vaccination target, Legault said, and the next big group to get a shot -- teens -- will start doing so very soon.
The province had hoped to get 75 per cent of the population vaccinated by June 24, but it looks set to reach that goal by June 15.
Before that time, most Quebecers between 12 and 17 should get their chance to get a first dose. Authorities promised a press conference on Thursday to announce the vaccine rollout for teens, but said that most of them will be getting their shots from late May through the second week of June.
In one of the biggest changes the province predicted, starting June 25, people who have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to see each other without wearing masks.
In fact, that number will be very small by the end of June -- only a tiny minority of Quebecers have had two doses so far.
But Legault said that by the end of August, if 75 per cent of Quebecers over age 12 have had two doses, the province will look at whether it has reached a solid enough level of herd immunity to allow everyone to remove masks.
As for vaccine hesitancy, Arruda said he expects that about five to 10 per cent of Quebecers are staunchly against the idea of getting a shot. The rest who haven't yet gotten theirs could more accurately be called hesitant, he said -- many are still likely making up their minds.
He also said young people have shown strong uptake."Thank you to the youth. They will surprise us," he said.
Legault ended his opening comments on a personal note by saying that the thing he most misses in his own life is having other families over for dinner.
"Seriously, this summer of freedom, I think that it's very warranted. We will certainly be happy," he said.
"I wish to thank Quebecers from the bottom of my heart. It truly is a privilege to be your premier."
FULL REOPENING TIMELINE
May 28, preliminary phase:
- Curfew lifted for the entire province
- Restaurants can reopen their terrasses; in red and orange zones, each table must have people from a single home, or two adults from different addresses if their minor-age children are there
- People can have a gathering of up to eight people from two homes in their backyards, with two-metre distancing
- In theatres and stadiums, crowds of 250 people per section (up to 2,500 total) will be allowed
- Travel between regions will be allowed
Starting May 31, Phase One:
- The “vast majority” of the province will go into orange zone
- Secondary 3, 4, and 5 students will go to school full-time
- Restaurant dining rooms will reopen; unclear what restrictions will apply
- Gyms will reopen
Starting June 11-14, Phase Two:
- Most regions will go into yellow zone “at the very latest” by June 14
- Bars will reopen, with their terrasses open earlier, on June 11
- People from two different residences may visit in a private home
- All team sports, including contact sports, will start again
Starting June 25-28, Phase Three:
- Most regions go into green zone
- Ten people living in a maximum of three homes will be able to gather in a private home
- Day camps and sleepaway camps will reopen
- All indoor team sports will start
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