MONTREAL -- Quebec's COVID-19 rules around gatherings at home are strict, especially in the province's many regions currently designated as red zones.

No at-home visits are allowed, in fact, in those zones, according to the rules given out so far. People are only allowed to get close to their family or roommates, the people they share a home with.

However, there's an exception, Quebec Premier François Legault clarified in a press conference on Tuesday.

Those who live alone can have visitors over -- just not groups of visitors, he said.

"People who are alone, you have the right to welcome somebody" to your home, Legault said. "Someone can visit you."

He went further than that, asking Quebecers to think of people in their lives who live alone and to make a point of going to see them.

"All Quebecers, I invite you, if you know someone who's alone...visit a person who lives alone," he said.

As for the rules around that, he was vague.

"You have the right -- maybe one at a time, [but] you have the right to go visit somebody who lives alone," he said. "We want to avoid groups."


It was unclear what prompted the remarks, which came in the prepared portion of the press conference rather than the question-and-answer period with reporters.

But later, when asked about what the province knows about Quebecers' mental health in the second wave, Legault said there are big concerns.

"Right now we have a very [significant] increase in the number of mental health problems," he said. "Mental health is an important preoccupation right now for our government." 

In response, there's been an increase in the number of people answering the 811 health line. 

"Don't hesitate to call 811," Legault told all people suffering from any kind of poor mental health, promising that the call will be picked up "in a few minutes."

There are also other workers being recruited to provide some kind of social support services, he said, though he didn't go into specifics.

When asked if he had meant that people living alone could have visits from social or health workers, rather than friends or family, Legault said no, he meant everybody, though with reasonable precautions.

"If somebody has had symptoms... you're not going to visit someone else, right?"


Across Quebec, nearly one in five people over the age of 15 lived alone in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Quebec has also earned the dubious honour of being dubbed "the living alone capital of Canada" by Statistics Canada, since it has the highest proportion of solo dwellers in the country.

Quebec has also seen an unusually rapid rise in the number of people living alone, according to a StatsCan report on the subject.

Across Canada, the number of people living alone has more than doubled in the last 35 years. They now represent 14 per cent of the national population, up from 9 per cent in 1981. Quebec, meanwhile, went from below the national average in 1981 to well above it.

"In recent decades, the number of persons living alone has grown fastest among adults aged 35 to 64," StatsCan wrote.

People living alone in 2016 were more likely to be men who were divorced or separated than in the past.