COVID-19: Quebec Government
    Relaxes Measures

    The Legault government announced on Tuesday that it will be relaxing COVID-19 health measures in the run-up to March break, as case numbers continue to drop.
    The provincial government announced it will be allowing indoor pools, sports arenas and movie theatres to reopen in red zones throughout the province as of Feb. 26.
    Activities such as free skates and indoor sports amongst family bubbles will be permitted. The government reiterated that health measures and maximum capacities would be put in place to ensure physical distancing and masks would remain mandatory.
    The number of people allowed to gather outdoors will also increase from four to eight, given that masks are worn and physical distancing is respected.
    This is in addition to the reopening of libraries and museums announced last week. “So there is a nice list of activities to stay busy for a few days,” said Legault.
    The only region of Quebec switching colours will be that of the Outaouais, which will be going from a red to an orange zone as the situation has stabilized.
    Curfew Remains
    The 8 PM curfew will be left in place in red zones, restaurants and bars will remain closed and it is still strictly prohibited to have indoor gatherings of any kind.
    “The pandemic is not over,” said Legault, adding caution was still necessary as there are “still some significant risks for Quebecers.”
    The government added that though it discourages the rental of cottages or hotel rooms in other regions, they will not prohibit it nor will checkpoints be set up to restrict access between regions.
    Premier Legault nonetheless asked that if Quebecers decide to travel, that they both remain in their family bubble and respect the 8 PM curfew. “We don’t want people renting houses with other families,” said Legault.
    The government will instead be asking police forces across the province to especially patrol highly touristic areas, where chalets and hotels are available. Police will strictly enforce curfew and family bubble measures and issue fines upwards of $1500 to those breaking the rules. At the moment, an average of about 1000 fines are issued every week.
    Thinking about families
    Premier Legault stated the relaxation of restrictions is an effort to accommodate parents and give them options for activities and entertainment to do with their children over the week of March break.
    Legault also stated it is to encourage children and teenagers to get outside more often and be able to play sports. Nonetheless, group sports such as hockey will still have to wait.
    The government is also asking for the help of employers in being accommodating towards staff with young children, who may be scheduled to work over the break.
    “It’s not a good idea to ask grandparents to babysit children,” said Legault, “please give them a few days off if you can.”
    “Spring is coming. But if we want a beautiful spring, we have to be careful,” said Legault.
    Case numbers and new variants
    These changes come amid increasingly falling numbers of cases, hospitalizations and death rates. The province registered 669 new cases and 20 deaths on Feb. 16. numbers not seen since late September, setting a new record for 2021.
    This is in addition to a recent announcement that 90,000 Pfizer-BioNTech will be delivered this week, allowing the province to ramp up vaccination efforts in long-term care facilities and seniors homes.
    The government is nonetheless acting cautiously in its loosening of measures. There are still 771 patients in the hospital with COVID-19, therefore postponing surgeries and exhausting front-line health care workers.
    National public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda also made a specific note that evolving strains of COVID-19 variants in the province. Namely, the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain, known as the British variant, still poses a serious risk of kickstarting the third wave.
    The government will monitor the situation closely and reevaluate the new measures in two weeks. “I hope Quebecers are cautious during March break,” said Legault, hoping the province won’t see a surge in cases similar to that which happened over the holiday period. He added that if things go well, there is the possibility of further loosening of restrictions as of Mar. 8.