MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault presented his government's COVID-19 reopening plan Tuesday, which begins with lifting the curfew on May 28 and ends with the possible removal of the mask mandate in late August.
"Today we see that there is hope," Legault said in Quebec City. "We can start to see each other again."
After imposing various levels of strict lockdown measures across the province since Oct. 1, Legault presented what he called a "prudent" plan divided into three general steps.
By May 31, the "vast majority" of Quebec will be moved to the orange pandemic-alert level, he said, under which high school students are in school full time. Restaurants can reopen for indoor dining — although only for a maximum of two adults from different households at each table. Gyms can also reopen.
By June 14, most regions will be at the yellow level, Legault said, under which people from two different households can gather indoors and bars can reopen.
And by June 25, the premier said most regions will be at the green level, where "small parties" can take place indoors with up to 10 people from three separate households. The green level also permits the resumption of indoor team sports.
Summer camps for children, as well as outdoor festivals, will also be able to open by June 25. Quebecers who are fully vaccinated can visit each other indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing by that date.
It wasn't clear, however, whether Montreal would be included in the regions moving to the orange level at the end of the month.
"We hope it will be all regions," Legault said.
Legault's plan came the day he reported that 75 per cent of Quebec adults had received at least one dose of vaccine or had an appointment to get one.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of Quebecers," he said, adding that his government was worried young people would be more hesitant to get vaccinated but was pleasantly surprised.
Legault said five major restrictions will be eased across the province May 28: the curfew — which has been in place in much of Quebec since Jan. 8 — will be lifted, restaurant patios can reopen, up to eight people can gather outside in backyards, inter-regional travel can resume and indoor venues can start welcoming up to 2,500 people at once.
That could allow fans to watch the Montreal Canadiens in person if the team makes it to Game 6 in its playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Shortly after the news conference, Margaret Bélanger, the Canadiens' executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, released a statement saying 2,500 spectators will be admitted to the Bell Centre starting May 28.
"Although the number of spectators remains limited, we applaud this decision which allows us to foresee an eventual return to normality," Bélanger said.
Legault's plan ends in August with the possible lifting of the mask mandate in most situations — if 75 per cent of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated with two doses.
"No more masks in most public areas in Quebec," Legault said.
University and college students will also be able to return to in-person classes at that point.
Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, said while the province can return to "quasi-normality" by the end of August, he offered no projections at Tuesday's news conference about when all measures would be lifted.
He and Legault said they still want the federal government to maintain travel restrictions, including requiring that travellers to the country temporarily stay in a quarantined hotel.
Meanwhile, for the second consecutive day, health officials Tuesday reported the lowest number of new daily cases since September in the province. Officials reported 549 new COVID-19 infections and nine more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including four within the previous 24 hours. Hospitalizations dropped by 17, to 484, and 118 people were in intensive care, an increase of two.
As of Tuesday morning, 49 per cent of all Quebecers, including 60 per cent of adults, had received at least one vaccine dose, according to government data. Officials said 70,122 doses of vaccine were administered Monday, for a total of 4,469,055.
Legault said the government aims to give 75 per cent of Quebec adults at least one dose of vaccine before June 15. Quebec had originally planned to reach that milestone by June 24.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press