Quebec announces reopening plan that lifts most COVID-19 restrictions by mid-March

“We need to learn to live with the virus,” says Premier Legault, announcing a reopening plan that would see almost all COVID health measures lifted by mid-March, with restrictions easing as of this weekend. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By The Canadian Press

The Quebec government intends to lift most public health measures by March 14, Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday, but the plan doesn’t include an end to mask mandates or the vaccine passport system.

Legault presented a road map that begins on Saturday, when all limits on indoor private gatherings will be removed. He said his plan represented a return to a more normal life, nearly two years after he declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19.

“The Health Department and the public health teams believe that it is a calculated risk today to announce a deconfinement plan to you,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City. “So, I think we’ve taken an important step.

“Since the beginning of January, we’ve seen the population is fed up, I’m fed up, we’re all fed up. I can understand the reason why we resist until today is because there was too much risk about the situation in our hospitals.”

Just two weeks ago, Legault had advocated a go-slow approach. Dr. Luc Boileau, the province’s interim public health director, said Tuesday that the government’s strategy hasn’t changed.

“For us, it’s still gradual and it’s likely that what is proposed here will hold firm, but it’s still gradual,” Boileau said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by more than 1,000 within the last three weeks to less than 2,400. And while hospitalizations could rise as measures are relaxed, officials are confident the health system has enough flexibility to deal with cases, Legault said.

WATCH: Quebec health update

“Obviously, we are saying it more and more – we will have to learn to live with the virus,” Legault said. “What does this mean? This means that each person will have to, individually, assess their risk.

“Starting February 14, well restart sports matches and outdoor shows will be able to host 5000 people.”

Previously announced – gyms and spas are set to reopen Feb. 14 – also with 50 per cent capacity limits and the vaccine passport.

By Feb. 21, entertainment and sports venues can open at 50 per cent capacity and fully reopen with no limits on Feb. 28. The Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens, can reopen fully on March 14. Bars and casinos will reopen as of Feb. 28 at half capacity and increase to full capacity by mid-March, along with restaurants. Karaoke and dancing inside bars and restaurants will also be permitted once again as of mid-March.

Also on Feb. 28, working from home will no longer be mandatory.

Boileau said there are no immediate plans to remove masks in schools or elsewhere, saying it remains an effective way of cutting transmission. That decision will be revisited after March 14, he added.

READ MORE: Premier Legault expected to ease more COVID-19 restrictions, reopen bars, organized sports games

Health Minister Christian Dube said authorities will take a similar approach with the vaccine passport and revisit the issue later. Quebecers are required to show proof of vaccination to enter many businesses, such as big-box stores, as well as liquor and cannabis stores.

“We think we have this room of maneuver we didn’t have a month ago. When we were at 3,500 hospitalizations and we had more than 20,000 absent employees, we were really close to having to make tough choices. Since then we have had half. We have reduced the total number of hospitalization,” stated Dube.

And as for when the government will stop renewing the state of emergency, Dube said a bill would be tabled in the legislature next month that will detail which emergency measures the government intends to keep.

Quebec reported 56 more deaths linked to COVID-19 Tuesday and a 45-patient drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations, for a total of 2,380 patients, including 178 in intensive care.

-With file from Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews

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