Quebec is giving the green light for day camps across the province to open for the summer but they will be subject to added safety measures due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Premier François Legault said day camps will be allowed to operate with smaller groups of children as of June 22 after meeting public health conditions.
“We have kids who didn’t go to school for months,” he said. “Children need to see one another and to move.”
Legault said the biggest challenge that lies ahead is the need for more counselors at the camps and he encouraged young adults and teenagers to apply for jobs.
“I’m not sure we will be able to fill all the positions for counselors so that’s why I’m putting a call out today,” he said.
The province hasn’t ruled out providing financial help for municipalities and groups that run the camps and will have to double staffing levels to meet public health guidelines, according to Legault.
He added the province is also looking to open up public pools, but authorities say sleep-away summer camps will likely be put off until the summer of 2021.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, the director of Quebec public health, said authorities will be keeping a close eye on the situation at day camps and the success of gradually reopening parts of the province depends on how well people follow guidelines.
“It’s always a balance and you know we can’t stay confined,” he said.
Children aren’t at a high risk for the respiratory illness, said Arruda, but he could not guarantee there will be no cases at day camps over the summer.
“If somebody thinks there is going to be no cases at all, I think it’s impossible,” he said. “But I think the impact of the cases will be low.”
Is Quebec ready for a second wave?
Quebec reported 82 new deaths on Thursday for a total of 3,800 fatalities since the health crisis began. There are 45,495 cases, an increase of 720 from the previous day.
Hospitalizations stand at 1,504, a decrease of 41 from the previous day. A total of 176 people are in intensive care.
While Legault said it was positive to see the number of hospitalizations dropping, he stressed the crisis is not over yet and Quebecers must abide by social-distancing restrictions.
“If the contagion restarts, we will have to come back to a pause,” he said.
Quebec remains the province with the highest caseload and death toll related to COVID-19. It not only leads the country, but it has more than half of Canada’s total number of infections.
When asked about a possible second wave, Legault said the province is facing a hurdle and needs to retain more health-care workers. Those on the front lines of the pandemic are tired, he added.
“If a second wave occurs, are we ready? Not yet,” he said, adding there is still a lot of work to do.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »