Quebecers with COVID-19 exposure who stay symptomless will no longer need to isolate
As of Saturday, vaccinated Quebecers who have made contact with a COVID-19 positive person but do not have symptoms will no longer be required to isolate for five days, but they are encouraged to wear a mask and avoid outings without a mask, public health officials say.
The announcement was made Thursday by interim director of public health Luc Boileau at a news conference with senior medical strategic counsellor at the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) Marie-France Raynault.
"We also recommend that they avoid visiting their grandparents or who are sick recovering from cancer for 10 days," said Raynault. "We recommend that they don't go to restaurants or bars."
However, the health ministry said it is "recommended" that Quebecers who are not vaccinated or have not recovered from COVID-19 to self-isolate for five days following a household contact with a positive person, "as the risk of contracting the disease and spreading it is clearly superior."
"For the next five days, these people should watch for symptoms, avoid contact with vulnerable people and wear a mask during all social interactions," the ministry clarified in a news release.
Boileau said the government was not ready to lift all mask mandates, but that it could happen around the end of March.
Quebec will continue easing measures as the COVID-19 pandemic situation is improving, and more restrictions will be lifted on Saturday.
Boileau said hospitalization and ICU numbers are improving, cautioning though, that the pandemic is not over and that Omicron and its sub-variant BA.2 should be taken seriously.
The BA.2 variant, Boileau said, is not more virulent than Omicron, but it may be 40 per cent more contagious.
The update came as COVID-19 numbers in the province continue to drop.
As of Thursday, Quebec reported 13,340 active cases, 1,162 hospitalizations and 69 intensive care unit patients.
Boileau said about half of the COVID-19 hospitalizations are actually patients admitted to a centre for other reasons and the virus was detected at a screening.
With 15 additional deaths due to the novel coronavirus added on Wednesday, the total number of deaths reported since the start of the pandemic is now 14,141. Boileau said that Quebec's numbers are higher because the province adds any patient who is positive for COVID-19 and dies on the list, and not only those who die due to the disease itself. He said the ministry believes about 30 per cent of people died while positive for the virus, but not because of it.
FOURTH DOSE OF VACCINE?
Boileau said that a fourth booster shot may soon be recommended for Quebecers at high risk such as those who are immunocompromised.
An announcement from the government will come on that shortly.
RESTRICTIONS LIFTED SATURDAY
As of Saturday, March 12, the capacity of all public places in Quebec will be increased to 100 per cent. In addition, there will be no capacity limit per table in restaurants, bars, taverns and casinos, and these establishments will all be able to return to their normal hours of operation.
Dancing and karaoke activities will be permitted again starting next Saturday. There will be no restrictions on the number of participants for activities of a social nature in a rented room.
The visitor log in private seniors' residences will be removed.
In addition, it will no longer be necessary to present a vaccination passport to access the premises that were covered by this measure.
Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge tweeted Thursday that high school proms can finally resume with the lifting of new health measures, which is good news for students like Aaron Itovitch. The Westmount High School student council president said the grad committee had been working on a prom even though there was still a lot of uncertainty around the rules and is now happy the end-of-year celebration can go ahead.
"All these five years of high school and it all comes to that point where we get a prom, we get a grad party. And it's just super exciting that we're going to get one. There's been so much doubt around it and I know my friends in the years before me, they haven't been able to get one so it means a lot," he said in an interview.
"It's going to be nice to say goodbye to some people who I might not be able to see again, make some memories with the people I intend to see again."
With files from CTV News' Joe Lofaro
A previous version of this article stated that non-symptomatic COVID-19 positive people were no longer required to self-isolate. It is only those in close contact with positive people and who have no symptoms who are no longer required to self-isolate.