Restrictions designed to stem the spread of COVID-19 will be eased in Montreal and Laval as those two areas are downgraded from red to orange zones next week.
Quebec Premier François Legault announced the measure Tuesday as the government continues to gradually loosen public health measures.
“It’s impressive,” he told reporters at the provincial legislature. “When we look at the numbers it’s going very well in Quebec.”
The new designation means students in Grades 9, 10 and 11 can return to high school for in-person classes on a full-time basis to cap off the year. Gyms and dining rooms in restaurants will also be allowed to reopen, but with some measures in place.
Montreal and Laval join several other regions in no longer being on red alert. Five areas, including Quebec City, were moved to orange earlier this week.
Legault said he expects cases to rise in the Montreal area over the next few weeks because rules are easing, but he says the health-care system can handle it.
Under the same plan, the province is moving the Saguenay, Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec regions to yellow next Monday.
The regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord and the Nord-du-Québec, meanwhile, will be bumped down to green, the lowest level on the pandemic colour-coded alert scale. Green alert allows indoor gatherings of up to 10 people.
As the province continues to lift rules, Legault is still urging caution since Quebecers are not yet fully vaccinated.
“We need to keep our distances and wear our masks until we have our two doses,” Legault said.
With restrictions easing and reopening underway, officials are also calling on younger people to book their shots.
“We need you to get back to our normal life,” Legault said said, adding that the sooner young people get vaccinated, the sooner people can have “small parties.”
The government says it will announce a plan on Thursday that will allow Quebecers to advance their second doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, the Health Department said Monday evening officials will begin vaccinating temporary foreign workers when they arrive at the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.
Quebec reported its lowest daily tally of infections Tuesday since late last summer, with 208 new cases. Authorities also recorded five more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one within the past 24 hours.
— With files from The Canadian Press