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Quebec will likely extend coronavirus red zone rules as province weighs strategy for holidays

Quebec officials provide update on COVID-19 pandemic.

Quebecers are urged to abide by novel coronavirus restrictions to have a shot at family gatherings during the holiday season, and the province is mulling extending winter break in schools.

Premier François Legault said Tuesday discussions are ongoing between the government and public health authorities about what will be permitted in December after admitting last week he was considering temporarily closing schools.

This includes possibly prolonging the school break into January so that loved ones can spend some time together and so that the added time off will act as a type of quarantine for students, he added.

Yet Legault stressed “now is not the time to give up” on following rules aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.

“We will have to be in good position so we have a collective mission in the coming weeks,” Legault told reporters. “We must contain the wave together to have a Christmas with our family.”

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Read more: More Quebecers want COVID-19 vaccine, study finds

The update comes one week before restrictions in designated coronavirus red zones, including Montreal and Quebec City, are set to end — if all goes well. In regions on red alert, gyms, museums, bars and dining rooms are shuttered and most gatherings are banned until Nov. 23.

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When asked if those measures will be extended again, Legault hinted “usually when something works, we don’t change it.”

“Nothing has been decided yet and in the next few days, we should be able to tell you if there are tweaks,” he said.

‘A light at the end of the tunnel’

Quebec’s COVID-19 caseload has reached 126,054 after the province recorded 982 new infections Tuesday. It is the first time in nearly two weeks that the daily tally has dipped below 1,000.

Legault said the province has “hit a new plateau” when it comes to cases, adding the situation in schools and businesses is under control. He was also optimistic about recent promising developments to obtain a coronavirus vaccine.

“We are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

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He also said that while there are cases and deaths in Quebec’s long-term care homes, they are being spared from the same brunt they experienced in the first wave.

“It’s day and night,” Legault said.

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However, the second wave is still taking hold in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. Legault called on the region to “take charge” and limit socializing as much as possible.

The health crisis has led to 24 additional deaths Tuesday, including five in the last 24 hours. Since March, the pandemic has claimed the lives of 6,675 Quebecers.

Hospitalizations due to the virus rose by 47 to 638. Among those patients, 100 are in intensive care, an increase of 13 from the previous day. Despite the spike, Legault says “the situation remains under control” in hospitals.

Health Minister Christian Dubé says the surge in hospitalizations is directly related to the high number of cases in the past week.

The latest information provided by the province shows 20,540 tests were administered Sunday. To date, around 3.5 million tests have been given.

There have been more than 107,000 recoveries in Quebec since the pandemic began.

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The province remains a long-standing hotspot for the virus. It has the highest caseload and death toll in Canada, which surpassed 300,000 cases this week.

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With files from the Canadian Press