February 16, 2021 – Provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic
Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Québec government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Curfew and ban on private gatherings maintained
As the Québec premier indicated last week, confinement measures and the curfew will remain in place during spring break, even though certain measures will be eased.
“During spring break, there are many parents who will be off work; there‘s the opportunity for all kinds of family gatherings and we don’t want a repeat of what happened during the Holidays,” said Mr. Legault. “We must be more, not less, prudent and we’re going to have to wait before we can significantly reduce confinement measures,” he explained.
Aside from the Outaouais, which will transition to an orange zone as of next Monday, all of the other red zones will maintain their red alert status. The 8 p.m. curfew will be maintained and private gatherings will still be prohibited.
The premier called on businesses to be flexible with employees who cannot take time off during the spring break in order to avoid grandparents having to babysit grandchildren.
It is the prospect of a possible explosion in the number of COVID-19 cases related to the presence of variants of the virus during the spring break that has prompted the government to remain prudent, said Mr. Legault.
Cottage and hotel room rentals
Cottage and hotel room rentals are not prohibited, said Mr. Legault. While it is not “ideal,” the premier stated that people must respect family bubbles and the curfew.
Consequently, there will not be any road blocks erected by police to prevent people from traveling from one region to another, but police surveillance will be stepped up.
“We’ll be asking the police to focus on monitoring places where there is a lot of tourism. By that, I mean hotels, cottages and places where there are a lot of activities. The objective is to ensure that guidelines are followed, particularly maintaining family bubbles and respecting the curfew,” said Mr. Legault.
Reopening of moving theatres, swimming pools and arenas
In order to permit more family activities, the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said that new activities will be authorized as of Friday, including the reopening of movie theatres across Québec.
Arenas will also be permitted to reopen, as will public pools for free swim, with a limit of eight people at a time for both types of installation.
Indoor sports for families or pairs, which was already permitted in the orange zones, will also be allowed to resume in red zones. Restaurants will remain closed in red zones.
Increase in cases of variants
Due to the presence of COVID-19 variants and concerns about an explosion in the number of cases, the government is maintaining confinement measures and the curfew, even though contagion, hospitalizations and deaths are all on a downward trend in Québec.
The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, explained that 16 cases have already been confirmed, but another 86 are under investigation and are considered probable cases.
Public Health is treating these cases as if they were confirmed and those infected have been isolated.
“The variant, particularly the one from the United Kingdom, is more contagious. If we’re not careful, the number of cases could explode in a few weeks,” said Premier François Legault.
Situation still risky
Even though the spread of the virus is decreasing, the government is still concerned about an uptick in the number of infections in the context of ongoing challenges in hospitals, even though the number of hospitalizations is decreasing.
“Things have improved, but the pandemic is not over. There are still serious risks for Quebecers, particularly in the next few weeks,” said Premier Legault.
Mr. Legault repeated that offloading continues and surgeries are still being postponed in hospitals, requiring ongoing caution: “With the variant, we have no choice.”