Quebec premier hints at pushing back curfew in Montreal as days get longer

·2 min read

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault hinted on Monday that he is considering pushing back the overnight curfew in the Montreal area because days are getting longer.

Legault told reporters he recently spoke with national public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda about how daylight time — which came into effect Sunday — will affect the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in Montreal and its surrounding regions.

The government imposed a curfew across the province in January to control people's movements and prevent COVID-19 transmission. Authorities this month pushed back the curfew to 9:30 p.m. for Quebec City and most other regions when COVID-19 cases dropped.

“With the light being on more during the day, should we change the curfew from eight to nine, or 9:30?" Legault said during a news conference in Montreal. "We’re looking at that right now, and we may have to announce something soon.”

Earlier on Monday, vaccination appointments inside pharmacies opened for Montrealers as young as 65, who should be able to start getting a jab at roughly 350 locations in the city by next week.

Health Minister Christian Dube has said the program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province. The association representing Quebec pharmacists, the Association quebecoise des pharmaciens-proprietaires, says the government plans to distribute 38,000 doses to pharmacies during an initial phase.

The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious COVID-19 variants, such as the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

Quebec's public health institute reported 162 new presumptive cases of variants on Monday, for a total of 2,245 — with 1,059 in Montreal. There are 343 confirmed cases of mutations in the province.

Legault told a news conference on Monday he wasn't worried about the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, despite several European countries suspending its use over concerns around blood clots.

He said provincial public health officials "tell us that there is no risk with the AstraZeneca vaccine, that it's safe." Legault said the province is ready to ramp-up vaccination and expects to be able to vaccinate everyone 65 and older in Quebec over the next four weeks.

Quebec reported 594 new COVID-19 cases Monday and 10 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including two that occurred in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations rose by six, to 553, and 96 people were in intensive care, a drop of four.

The province says it administered 26,595 doses of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, for a total of 744,108.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2021.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press