Quebec Premier François Legault announced a plan on Tuesday afternoon to lift almost all of the restrictions currently in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic by the middle of next month. The plan begins this coming Saturday, with the removal of the legal limit on participants at private indoor gatherings, and continues through March 14, when all limitations except the mask mandate and vaccine passport system will be withdrawn.
“We need to learn to live with the virus, because Covid is here to stay,” Legault said, explaining that the government is taking the “calculated risk” of shifting from restrictions to recommendations and encouraging people to manage their own levels of comfort and care when it comes to COVID-19.
With regard to the change this coming Saturday, the Premier said that the recommendation is still to limit gatherings to ten people or three family bubbles, but that there will no longer be a formal restriction on the total number.
Restaurants will also be allowed to seat up to ten people or members of three family bubbles at a table.
On Feb. 14, in addition to the changes already announced last week, sports groups and organizations will be able to hold games again, and outdoor events will be able to host up to 5,000 people.
The following week, on Feb. 21, stores will be allowed to reopen at full capacity. Performance venues will see their capacities capped at a true 50 per cent, regardless of their size, and places of worship will see their capacity limits change to 50 per cent up to 500 people.
On Feb. 28 sports tournaments will be allowed to resume and work from home will be shifted to a recommendation, rather than a requirement. Places of Worship and Performance venues will also see their capacity limits lifted except in the case of the Bell Centre and the Centre Videotron in Quebec City, and bars and casinos will be able to open at half capacity without any dancing or karaoke.
Finally, on March 14, dance and karaoke will be permitted again and bars and casinos will be able to open at full capacity, as will the Bell Centre and the Centre Videotron.
Asked about the mask mandates and vaccination passport system, Interim Provincial Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau said that the two remain very effective tools in helping to control the spread of the virus.
“We do not have a plan to eliminate these measures,” he said.
Health Minister Christian Dubé indicated an openness to re-evaluating the measures in the future but emphasized that they will remain in place until further notice.
With measures having come and gone in the past, there was some question as to whether Tuesday’s schedule might end up scrapped with the arrival of a new variant or a rise in hospitalization. Legault, however, described the plans as “pretty solid,” with dates that might move around a bit, but no significant changes expected.
As of Tuesday’s update, there were 2,380 people in hospital across the province with COVID-19, a decrease of 45 compared to Monday. 178 of those people were in intensive care, the same number as the previous day.
The province also recorded another 56 deaths linked to the virus, for a total of 13,551 since the start of the pandemic.
There were 128 people hospitalized in the Eastern Townships with COVID-19 on Tuesday, 12 of whom were in intensive care. The total number of Covid-related deaths recorded to date climbed to 513, six more than were reported on Monday.