Quebec is reporting 276 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death on Monday, marking the lowest caseload in the province since Sept. 14.
Since the start of the pandemic, 370,319 infections have been tallied, while the virus has claimed the lives of 11,128 Quebecers.
Authorities said the latest death occurred between May 24 and May 29, with no fatalities in the last 24 hours.
Hospitalizations linked to the virus dropped on Monday with 362 patients requiring treatment, for a decrease of two since Sunday. Of those, 89 were in the ICU for a decrease of one.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé took to social media on Monday to stress the importance of following public health guidelines and getting vaccinated.
“The last time we had such a record was on Sept. 14,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the number of new cases.
“However, we must remain cautious to prevent this number from rising upwards, as it did last fall. The solution: respect the measures and get vaccinated.”
To date, 5,583,075 doses of COVID-19 have been administered including 77,495 doses in the last 24 hours.
During an afternoon press conference Dubé was asked to clarify when people who had received a first dose of AstraZeneca would be eligible for a second.
There was confusion after the immunization committee said that it was technically possible to receive a second dose four weeks after receiving a first dose.
Dubé, however, said Quebec is requiring people to wait eight weeks to maximize protection.
“You have to wait a minimum of four weeks but … to have the best immunity for the second dose you have to wait eight weeks,” he said.
Easing restrictions in orange zones
The downward trend in COVID-19 indicators comes as several regions in the province are being downgraded from the highest pandemic alert level allowing restrictions to ease.
Five regions, including Quebec City, will move completely to the orange level, which will allow gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen.
In the Chaudière-Appalaches, Estrie and Bas-Saint-Laurent regions, several municipalities will remain at the red alert level while the rest of the region moves to orange.
On Montreal’s south shore, residents and restaurant owners alike were rejoicing.
“We’re incredibly excited, we’re looking at the beautiful restaurants here in Saint-Lambert and we just can’t wait,” said Saint-Lambert resident Stephen Marchand.
Piazzetta owner Samantha Lamarche echoed the sentiment.
“We are so excited to be able to reopen the doors and the restaurant to everybody,” she said. ”
“We’ve been working very hard for the past week but super excited, everybody is very anxious to start over again.”
While the indoor dining room is now open, Lamarche said patrons prefer being outside.
“The terrace is more popular during the summer for sure. But the fact that we can have people inside and outside is a blessing right now,” she said.
Montreal and Laval remain red zones, though the premier has said all regions are expected to be out of the province’s highest pandemic alert level by June 7 if all goes well.
However, Dubé was forced to reiterate the need for people to follow public health guidelines after several large gatherings were held over over the weekend.
Revellers gathered in major parks to celebrate the lifting of the province’s five-month overnight curfew on Friday, keeping local police forces busy.
Dubé wouldn’t say if any new measures will be put in place to ensure compliance with remaining guidelines.
“The excitement of the first few days was normal,” he said of the outdoor celebrations. “Let’s see how it will develop in the next few days but I think people understand how important it is to respect the rules.”
— with files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Olivia O’Malley