Quebec to lift curfew, allow outdoor dining as of May 28 in first steps of reopening plan
Legault says restrictions will be lifted over the spring and summer, as long as people keep getting vaccinated
Quebec's premier says life will start returning to normal gradually, with the curfew lifting across the province on May 28 and masks no longer mandatory in most situations by the end of August.
"This is a big day. A big step," François Legault said with a smile on Tuesday, not hiding his excitement as he announced his long-awaited plan to scale back public health restrictions.
Also allowed as of May 28:
- Eating on patios and decks outside of restaurants.
- Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people on private property.
- Travel between regions of Quebec.
- Up to 2,500 people in a large theatre or arena.
Just a few days later, on May 31, the vast majority of the province will be an "orange zone," which means indoor dining at restaurants will be allowed and gyms can reopen.
All kids will be sent back to school full time as well. As it stands in Quebec, third-year high school students and above have been alternating between days online learning and in-person classes.
WATCH | Quebec to begin lifting restrictions by end of May:
On June 11, bars will be able to open terraces for outdoor drinking. Outdoor sports and recreation activities will also be allowed, with a cap of 25 people.
By June 14, Legault said most regions will be at the yellow level, which means people from two different households can gather indoors and bars can reopen.
On June 25, fully vaccinated people will be able to assemble indoors without masks or social distancing. Outdoor festivals will also be allowed and summer camps can open.
On June 28, most regions will switch to green zones. Indoor gatherings will be permitted up to a maximum of 10 people from three residences, and all indoor team sports will be permitted.
By the end of August, most mask requirements will be lifted, except for perhaps public transit and a few other exceptions. However, the lifting of mask restrictions still hinges on vaccination rates, Legault said.
He wants 75 per cent of people 12 and up to have a second dose before the masks come off indoors.
Reopening depends on vaccination rates
Legault stressed that this success relies on everybody doing their part by getting vaccinated.
He said the plan is to gradually scale back measures every two weeks, but health officials will be keeping a close eye on the situation. Any sudden uptick in cases could delay the process.
Quebec set a goal of administering the first vaccine dose to 75 per cent of adults by June 24, but now officials expect to reach that goal by June 15, Legault said.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of Quebecers,'' Legault said. "Today we see that there is hope."
Health Minister Christian Dubé said it may be possible to speed up the rate of delivering the second dose, ensuring people can gather indoors without masks even sooner.
"Please get vaccinated. Because after that, you are allowed to get your second dose," he said.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director, said only about five to 10 per cent of the population is refusing to get vaccinated. Then there are those who are waiting to get a dose, hesitating because the virus and vaccine are both new, he said.
"I think we are going to have good coverage," said Arruda.
He expects youth in particular to do their part because, he said, they understand that getting vaccinated is the fastest way to return to normal life.
Relief after months of lockdown measures
The Legault government began re-tightening public health restrictions in October as cases once again began to climb.
After the Christmas holidays, the number of cases shot up even higher. Officials enacted the curfew in January with hopes of deterring people from gathering indoors.
The daily caseload and COVID-19 hospitalizations have stabilized in Quebec, and vaccination rates are increasing.
Quebec reported 549 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and nine more deaths. The province has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic with more than 360,000 confirmed infections, and 11,050 deaths related to the disease.
Nearly 50 per cent of Quebecers have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and another 25 per cent have booked an appointment to get one. Only slightly more than 250,000, however, have now received a second dose.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has set the benchmark of 75 per cent of adults having received one dose and 20 per cent having received two before lifting restrictions.