By Matthew McCully
It took less than two weeks for Quebec to reverse its decision to loosen restrictions in red zones, backtracking and adding new preventative measures to address the large increase in the spread of variants in the province.
While there hasn’t been an increase in hospitalizations, premier Francois Legault said based on the number of new cases, it’s basically a question of days or weeks to see the effects.
Starting on Monday, secondary 3,4 and 5 students in red zones will go back to alternating days of in-person classes and distance learning, and extra-curricular activities are cancelled. Starting Thursday, gyms in red zones must also close, and places of worship will be limited to 25 people.
In orange zones, all elementary school students, along with older students, will be required to wear a mask at all times, and religious gatherings are limited to 100 people, down from 250.
For now, the curfew will remain at 9:30 p.m., but Legault said putting it back to 8 p.m. was a possibility if cases continue to increase.
Legault added that regional public health boards have been encouraged to crack down on places not following COVID-19 guidelines and shut them down if necessary.
The situation is fragile, Legault said the month of April will be critical.
“I’m asking for a last effort. The variant is very dangerous, please be careful,” the premier said, even for young people.
On the vaccination front, Health Minister Christian Dubé said an initial 34,000 and now another 20,000 doses are heading out to regions in the coming days where they are most needed.
Addressing the high number of unfilled appointments over the last week, Dubé said 1.6 million Quebecers have been vaccinated since December, more than any other province. They’re not sitting around in refrigerators, the health minister assured, the campaign is adjusting.
By the end of the week, Dubé said people 60 and over will be eligible for vaccination appoints across Quebec. He added that the province has around 350, 000 doses of Astrazeneca available for people 55 and over.
Quebec is reporting 1,168 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of people infected to 318,532. Of those, 297,384 people have recovered.
Four new deaths were reported, for a total of 10,701 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitalizations in the province increased by 11 for a total of 514. There are currently 121 patients in intensive care, an increase of two from the day before.
In the Estrie region, 16 new cases were reported, bringing the total of active cases locally to 197. No new deaths were reported in area.