Quebec is loosening a number of COVID-19 public health restrictions for sports and physical training both indoors and outdoors starting March 26.
Isabelle Charest, the minister responsible for sports, said Friday the government is taking a gradual approach so as not to reverse any progress made in the last few weeks. She described it as a first phase of deconfinement.
“The situation is still fragile,” she told reporters, adding that certain measures such as physical distancing must be maintained.
Under the plan, all indoor facilities — including gyms — can reopen in designated red zones such as Montreal in two weeks. However, training can only be done in pairs or with people from the same household when indoors.
In orange zones in Quebec, where gyms and other training centres are already permitted to be open, up to eight people will be allowed to train together indoors.
When it comes to outside, up to 12 people will be allowed to do non-contact physical activities together in orange zones. In red zones, that number will remain limited to eight.
“It should be noted that the physical distance of two metres must be respected at all times, regardless of the type of activity and the region in which it is practiced,” the government’s statement reads.
Games and competitions are still off-limits, however, and crowds are also not permitted. Charest said her objective is that athletes can get back to their activities and training as the province slowly lifts measures and ramps up vaccination.
Charest also said she is increasingly hopeful that Quebecers will be able to resume a more normal life in the coming months, and she thanked them for being patient.
“I know the last few months were difficult and we asked a lot of you,” she said.
Quebec is also giving the green light for classrooms bubbles to participate in extracurricular activities and school outings as of March 15. The government will also allow intra-school sports to start on March 26, but with rules to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
With the gradual resumption of sports, officials say they believe most athletes will continue to abide by sanitary measures. Dr. Richard Massé, a public health adviser to the government, said authorities will intervene if that’s not the case.
The decision to lift restrictions is a fragile balance, he added.
“We think at this time we think we can reopen and see how it goes,” he said. “If it goes well, we may reopen more in the next few weeks.”
Sports organizations welcomed the announcement. Julie Gosselin, president of Sports Quebec, said she was relieved for her members and called the decision “a step in the right direction.”
— With files from The Canadian PressView link »