Quebecers allowed to gather outside in groups of 10 from 3 households, respecting 2-metre rule

"I know it's getting harder and harder to stay disciplined after more than two months," said Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault Wednesday. "We miss our friends. We miss our families."

It's still too early, says one expert: New cases 'not decreasing enough to say we've gotten through epidemic'

A maximum of 10 people will be allowed to gather outside in Quebec, starting Friday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Starting Friday, Quebecers will be allowed to gather outdoors in groups of no more than 10 people, while still maintaining physical distancing, said the province's deputy premier, Geneviève Guilbault.

Guilbault said the gatherings must consist of people from a maximum of three different households.

"I know it's getting harder and harder to stay disciplined after more than two months, especially with the coming summer. We miss our friends. We miss our families," Guilbault said Wednesday at the province's daily briefing.

"That's why I'm very happy to say that public health has given us the green light to allow outdoor gatherings under certain conditions, starting this Friday."

Guilbault cautioned that for now, gatherings must be kept outdoors, in parks or in people's yards, to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

Mental health a consideration

After a weekend of being allowed to gather in small groups for the first time since the start of the pandemic, Montrealers will also be able to visit retail stores again, starting Monday. 

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The easing of confinement measures comes amid slight decreases in the daily counts of overall cases and numbers of dead. 

But while the signs are encouraging, some public health experts worry the situation in the Montreal area is still too fragile to risk having large numbers of people move about the city. 

"In my opinion, Montreal is not ready. It's still too early," epidemiologist Dr. Nima Machouf said Wednesday.

"We're on the right path," she said. "But the number of new cases is not decreasing enough to say we've gotten through the epidemic."

When asked if the province was moving too soon, Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director, said the impact of isolation on people's mental health was part of consideration. 

He also said people were likely to gather in secret had they not laid out guidelines, which would be more problematic and potentially dangerous.

He stressed, however, that the situation in Montreal remains "fragile."

The province opted not to adopt measures such as those taken by neighbouring New Brunswick, which has allowed for people to gather with those in another "bubble" on a regular basis, even inside.

Arruda said that sort of directive could create tension, with people being forced to choose one group of family or friends over another.

With files from Radio-Canada

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