Quebec government updates COVID-19 restrictions
The Legault government updated Quebecers on COVID-19 health measures at their regular press briefing on Tuesday, Mar. 16.
The government announced that the curfew time in red zones would be pushed back from 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM starting Mar. 17. The nightly curfew has now been in place for over 2 months.
The government also announced they will be allowing theatres and performance halls to open their doors in red zones starting Mar. 26. This will allow people to attend theatre productions, given health measures are respected.
Places of worship will also see an increase in the permitted amount of people on that day, going from 10 to 25. Gyms will also reopen on Mar. 26.
Battle not yet over
The government reiterated the importance of following public health orders and reminded all Quebecers that inside gatherings were still banned and risk a $1000 fine.
This was in addition to the announcement that 3 regions were being downgraded to yellow zones, namely Nord du Québec, Côte-Nord and Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, and that students in orange zones secondary 3, 4 and 5 would no longer have to attend school on a rolling schedule.
Sufficient decrease in cases
“The situation remains stable in Quebec,” said Premier François Legault, adding that “it’s encouraging, but the battle is not over and we have to stay very careful for a few more weeks.”
The government also announced they expect to have all people above the age of 65 and those residing in senior homes to be vaccinated by mid-April. This indicates that the most at-risk portion of the population will be inoculated.
The government also announced they expected that all Quebecers who wanted a vaccine will be able to get their first dose by Jun. 24, in time for Québec’s Fete Nationale holiday.
Vaccination record reached
Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, commended the efforts of all those working in the mass vaccination campaign. He thanked them for reaching a new vaccination record on Saturday, Mar. 13, when 34,000 people were vaccinated across the province in a single day.
Pharmacies in the greater Montreal area will also begin vaccinating people who are eligible starting Apr. 5. This will bring the total number of pharmacies participating in vaccination efforts to approximately 1500 across the province.
The government is currently working with private companies to bolster the inoculation of employees.
Effective and safe
Amid growing concerns among many about the safety of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, the provincial government reiterated that all COVID-19 vaccines were both “effective and safe,” said Legault.
They nonetheless said that people were largely accepting the vaccine, and that refusal rates only varied between 1% and 2%. Minister Dubé said that people could refuse the vaccine if they wanted to but would have to reschedule an appointment.
The growing lack of trust comes after several European countries, including Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, and Italy, suspended use of the vaccine after reports of blood clots occurring in patients.
Nonetheless, Premier Legault, Minister Dubé and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda said it was due to a bad batch and not the vaccine itself. They all said they would all be comfortable receiving the shot when they became eligible for it.
Arruda said he recommends the vaccine and would not do so if he did not feel fully comfortable receiving it or giving it to his family.
The government said that efforts were having clear positive effects in slowing the spread of the virus, but also stressed caution was still necessary due to risks posed by the more contagious B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, commonly known as the British variant.
Minister Dubé stated that the percentage of variants across new cases remained stable at approximately 18% to 20%. If variants remain at this level, the Minister was confident that Québec could avoid a third-wave and a potential for further lockdowns.
Nonetheless, Dr. Arruda stressed this was dependent on the respect of public health orders by the population.
“I’m asking all Quebecers to be careful, the finish line is coming, we’re approaching the goal,” stated Legault.
As of Mar. 17, Québec announced 703 new cases, 503 active hospitalizations and 10 additional deaths. The total amount of people vaccinated has now reached 804,806 people.