Quebecers in many parts of the province will be able to dine out in restaurants and hit the gym starting Monday as COVID-19 measures are eased in five regions but strict measures remain in effect for Montreal.
The Quebec City, Chaudière-Appalaches, Estrie, Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec areas have been downgraded to the orange level of the government’s colour-coded alert system. The nightly curfew is also being moved back to 9:30 p.m. from 8 p.m. as of this week for those regions.
Lifting some restrictions comes as the province has seen a downturn in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks — but some business owners say they are taking their time to reopen.
Alan Gauthier, the owner of Athletica Lac Brome Gym, told Global News that he will open his doors next Monday after all sanitary measures are in place.
“Do I really want to be open? Of course, I mean, the lights are on for a reason,” he said.
Montrealers, meanwhile, will have to wait. The island, which has been a hot spot for the virus over the past year, remains a designated red zone. Restaurants’ dining rooms and gyms, which shut down last October, remain closed.
Quebec Premier François Legault has cited concerns over the spread of variants of the virus, which appear to be more transmissible, in the Greater Montreal area. The province is hoping to keep COVID-19 indicators under control as it ramps up its vaccination campaign to inoculate all vulnerable Quebecers.
As a result, all elementary school students in Montreal and other designated red zones are now required to wear pediatric masks at all times. The goal is to stop any potential propagation of cases and to keep the pandemic under control.
As students head back to class after spring break, the latest measure is being welcomed by parents like Anthony Morello.
“I think they are protecting the kids,” he said.
“I think any time is a good time.”
Dr. Christos Karatzios, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, explained that public health authorities are worried about a potential third wave of the health crisis.
“We have to make every effort to protect our children and make their return safe,” he said.
Aside from masks, students are asked to keep washing their hands and abiding by public health orders.
— With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant, Brayden Jagger Haines and The Canadian Press
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