Quebec is lifting its curfew and easing restrictions on outdoor activities as part of Premier François Legault’s much-awaited COVID-19 reopening plan.
The controversial overnight curfew is set to end on May 28.
The measure first came into effect at the beginning of January as a way to cut down on indoor gatherings in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.
The curfew has drawn a lot of criticism, some arguing it was too harsh and others saying it unfairly targeted vulnerable members of society without scientific data to prove its effectiveness.
Legault also announced that as of May 28, outdoor restaurant terraces will be allowed to reopen across Quebec. That includes restaurants in the province’s red zones where indoor dining rooms have been closed since last October, forcing businesses to rely on takeout and delivery to stay afloat.
According to the Quebec restaurant association, of the province’s estimated 20,000 commercial restaurants, roughly 10 per cent are believed to have closed down permanently based on licence renewal data kept by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Martin Vézina, spokesperson for the association, welcomed Tuesday’s announcement.
Knowing what’s coming will allow restaurateurs to plan ahead for things like ordering food and calling back employees, he said.
Vézina is hopeful restaurants will be able to bounce back and make up what they’ve lost over the course of the pandemic.
“With this reopening we believe that people will do sales, I believe customers will be there so maybe it will help restaurant owners pay back those debts, those loans.”
Restaurants aren’t the only ones to be celebrating, however. Hockey fans are also in for a bit of good news.
As of May 28, stadiums and other entertainment venues are seeing their maximum capacity increased to 250 people per section or room, with an overall maximum occupancy of 2,500 people.
The Montreal Canadiens are headed to the playoffs and if everything goes according to plan, hockey analyst Brian Wilde says Game 6 pitting the Habs against the Leafs could be played in front of a live audience at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens organization for its part said it will be ready to welcome back its fans even in a limited capacity.
“We really missed our fans and spectators and we can’t wait to host them again. And we will be ready,” said France Margaret Bélanger, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, adding that 2,500 spectators represent only 12 per cent of the Bell Centre’s capacity.
Travelling between regions is also getting the green light on May 28, while outdoor gatherings in backyards with a maximum of eight people will also be allowed.
On June 11, bar patios will be permitted to open provincewide and supervised sporting activities will be allowed to resume with a maximum of 25 people.
On June 25, day camps, festivals and other outdoor activities will be allowed to resume with a maximum of 2,500 people. Health guidelines for holding public events will be released later this week.
Vaccination campaign ahead of schedule
The relaxed measures come amid a steady decline in the daily number of new COVID-19 cases and as a greater percentage of Quebecers are vaccinated against the virus.
As of Tuesday, 75 per cent of adults over the age of 18 had either received or booked an appointment for their first dose.
The province had set June 24 as the deadline to administer a first dose to all adults who wanted a shot, but Legault said it will reach its goal by June 15.
“I want to tell you how impressed I am with Quebecers,” Legault said. “Millions of Quebecers have respected the rules. And now, millions of Quebecers are getting vaccinated. Everyone is there, especially the young. I am so proud of you.”
Legault credited those getting vaccinated for making Tuesday’s announcement possible.
A gradual reopening of the province will begin on May 31 with the majority of regions moving from red to orange zones allowing for more activities to take place.
By June 14, the premier anticipates that most regions will be downgraded to yellow and then green by June 28.
The province is now aiming to have 75 per cent of the population aged 12 and above fully vaccinated by the end of August.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé will announce the details of the vaccine rollout for those aged 12 to 17 on Thursday, along with education minister Jean-François Roberge.
Legault said if that goal is met, CEGEPs and universities will be able to offer in-person classes and face masks will no longer be required in public spaces.