The provincial government has announced stricter measures two weeks after relaxing them.
Premier François Legault announced stricter health measures across the province as cases continue to rise throughout Québec.
As of Thursday, gyms have been ordered to close and places of worship have been imposed limits of 25 people – down from 250. All indoor sports will also be banned.
High school students
By Monday, school rules will also change, where grades 9, 10 and 11 will return to hybrid learning. Students will therefore attend in-person classes on alternating days, combined with at-home virtual learning.
The government has cancelled all afterschool activities and sports. These changes come only two weeks after the government allowed students to return to classes.
“The situation is fragile and it could become critical very rapidly. This is why we must act in prevention in red and orange zones,” said Legault during the government’s weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension is still seeing some of the highest rates of transmission in Montreal, with 400 new cases reported in the last 14 days.
These measures are applicable in all red zones, including those announced in Québec City and Gatineau last week.
Curfew remains in Montreal
Montreal will remain a red zone and not see its curfew moved backwards, as the government still deems the situation as “stable.” Curfew will still run from 9:30 PM to 5:00 AM.
“It’s surprising we’re not seeing a significant rise in cases,” said Premier Legault about the situation in Montreal, but specified that could change in only a “matter of days or maximum a few weeks.”
“There’s a higher risk this week over last week that there’s a strong increase in case numbers in Montreal,” said Legault.
The government made it clear these measures were preventive and that it would not hesitate to move the curfew earlier if the situation got out of control.
Legault defended his management of the crisis and his decision to reimpose stricter measures just two weeks after relaxing them.
“I would rather let Public Health adjust for the health of all Quebecers over defending a position blindly because it was the position they held last week,” said Legault.
He added that Public Health was making decisions in accordance with the information they currently had and that they are acting in a preventive manner.
The stricter measures will run parallel to growing vaccination efforts underway across Montreal and the rest of the province. The government announced it would be further opening up vaccine eligibility.
All Quebecers 60-years and up are now eligible to book an appointment to get their shot. This is in addition to people who suffer from a chronic illness and may be at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
The government also stated that essential workers, such as teachers, daycare educators and police officers would be vaccinated, but did not give a specific date.
Health Minister Christian Dubé also announced that those 55-years and above could get an Astra-Zeneca shot if they wanted, opening a “parallel” vaccination stream. This comes after health authorities recommended the vaccine not be used on people under 55-years of age, due to the risk of blood clots.
The government also made available no-appointment immunization at mass vaccination sites across the province in order to increase uptake. Eligible people can therefore check which locations offer the program and show up without an appointment.
Situation in Quebec
The newest decisions come amid a steady rise in reported cases across the province. On Tuesday, the province recorded 1,168 new cases and 1 new death.
These numbers are accompanied by a fairly steady number of hospitalizations, reported at 514 across the province with 121 people in intensive care.
This signifies a 30% rise in new cases over the last 2 weeks, worrying many about the intensity of the third wave in Québec. So far, the third wave of COVID-19 has hit other Canadian provinces like Ontario and British Columbia, much harder.
With 2,334,695 first vaccine doses already received, roughly 18% of the population of Québec, the government is still confident they can reach their Jun. 24 objective of giving any Quebecer their first dose.
Nonetheless, many say much needs to be done to ramp up immunization rates and prevent the waste of vaccines. Roughly 5,000 doses were lost over Easter weekend after turnout to vaccination sites declined.