Starting Feb. 8 stores, hairdressers and museums across Quebec can reopen, but the curfew will remain in effect in the province, premier Legault announced Tuesday.
While six regions across Quebec (Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Côte-Nord, Nord-du-Québec) will see measures relaxed, Legault said the burden on hospitals is still too high to risk loosening more restrictions.
“The battle is not over,” Legault said, explaining that the health sector has a 34 per cent backlog because of suspended surgeries and appointments.
Waitlists are still growing, the premier said, it would be disrespectful, after 11 months, to put more pressure on healthcare workers, already struggling to play catchup.
All Quebecers will, as of next Monday, be able to visit a hairdresser, store or museum, and the province is asking that cegeps and universities gradually let students return to classes at least one day per week. Restrictions on outdoor activities are also relaxed. In red zones, up to four people from different bubbles can enjoy outdoor activities together, still maintaining a safe distance. In orange zones, up to eight people can join in an activity.
But visits to other homes are still prohibited, Legault said, and the 8 p.m. curfew is still in place.
The six regions with loosened restrictions will have their curfew pushed to 9:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. Restaurants, gyms and indoor sporting activities can resume as of Feb. 8, and theatres and cinemas will follow on Feb. 26.
Legault said support programs for restaurants in parts of the province that can’t reopen will be extended.
With March break coming up, the premier said there will be no roadblocks or fines given for travel within regions, but Quebecers are discouraged from piling up in cottages in other regions to take advantage of relaxed measures. Even if people decide to go another region, the same rules apply, meaning they should bring their own food with them and essentially quarantine in place during their visit.
Québec reported 1,053 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the total number of people infected to 264,526, of which 241,537 have now recovered.
There were 38 new deaths attributed to the virus, bringing the total to 9,862.
The number of hospitalizations decreased by 34 compared to the previous day, for a cumulative total of 1,110. Among those, the number of people in intensive care decreased by five, for a total of 178.
In the Estrie region 17 new cases were reported, bringing the local total to10, 651 since the beginning of the pandemic. Two new deaths were added, one at a Valcourt CHSLD and one at Fleurimont Hospital, for a total of 279 in the region.