Montreal

Reopening of gyms, restaurants not a reason to start gathering in homes, Drouin says

Montreal and Laval are set to become orange zones. What worries Montreal's public health director isn't gatherings in restaurants and gyms, it's people using it as an excuse to do have get together in private homes.

Contact tracing efforts should be able to limit size of outbreaks to come, Drouin said

Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal's public health director, is reminding people that indoor private gatherings are not allowed, even if gyms and restaurant dining rooms are set to reopen. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Montreal's public health director is warning people to not use the reopening of restaurants dining rooms and gyms as an excuse to organize indoor gatherings at home.

As of next Monday, Montreal and Laval will become orange zones, which will allow more freedoms.

"What preoccupies us, it's not the restaurants or the gyms because we know the measures are going to be there," said Dr. Mylène Drouin in an interview today with CBC Montreal Daybreak host Sean Henry.

"It's more the message that the population is getting [that worries me], maybe adding people indoor in homes. It's not permitted at the time we're speaking."

Despite her concerns and the fact that vaccination rates in Montreal are lagging behind the rest of the province, Drouin appeared to be on board with going orange. That was not the case two weeks ago.

When the Quebec government unveiled its reopening plan, it targeted May 31 as the date for all regions to go orange, but the change was delayed for Montreal and Laval. That was in large part due to Drouin's concerns.

The speed of the virus's spread had been stable for weeks, but she expressed doubts that Montreal's caseload was light enough to justify lifting so many restrictions.

The situation, however, has since changed for the better.

Quebecers are hoping to resume many regular indoor and outdoor activities this summer, more than 14 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Drouin says the reopening of gym and restaurant dining rooms will likely lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases. However it's something she says the city's public health department can handle.

"Moving to the orange zone, it means that people are going to have more contacts, more contacts indoors," she said.

"But at the same time, because we have low numbers at the time we're speaking, I think we can manage with our [contact] tracing to make sure we identify the chains of transmission and we can cut them."

From May 16 to May 22, Montreal averaged 212 cases per day, according to data from the province's public health research institute (INSPQ). The following week, that average dropped to 138 cases.

Since Monday, the number of daily cases reported has remained below 100.

Drouin also stressed the importance of being careful in outdoor gatherings, as many of the recent oubreaks have been linked to to get-togethers in parks.

"We want to encourage people to gather outside...I think we all need it for our mental health. But at the same time, we're asking the population to not share food, drinks or other objects," she said.

"In the outbreaks that we have seen, people have just forgotten to respect physical distancing." 

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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