Quebec premier says all adults who want COVID-19 vaccine should get one by June 24

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MONTREAL — Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday his government's goal is for all adult Quebecers who want a COVID-19 vaccine to get at least one dose by Quebec's Fete nationale on June 24.

The announcement came as the premier pushed back the overnight curfew in Montreal and its surrounding regions to 9:30 p.m. from 8 p.m., starting Wednesday.

For three less populated regions, including the Gaspe peninsula, the curfew will be entirely lifted as they move to the "yellow" pandemic-alert level, Legault said.

"It gives us an idea of where we are going," Legault said about the rest of the province, where residents must still be inside by 9:30 p.m.

The premier said early analysis of the school break during the first week of March indicates a slight rise in new COVID-19 cases but not the deluge that health authorities had feared.

"I want to thank Quebecers," Legault said. "We really did have a worry about the effects of March break." But fears over more contagious variants are leading officials to monitor the province's biggest cities closely.

Legault said that by the end of April, the dominant strain of the novel coronavirus in the province will be the mutation first identified in the United Kingdom. "We need to stay very prudent," he said.

The premier said the province's vaccination campaign will allow all Quebecers aged 65 and over to be vaccinated with one dose by mid-April. "It's big news and that changes the portrait completely," Legault said. "It's people over 65 who are most vulnerable."

And by June 24, when Quebecers celebrate the holiday also known as St-Jean-Baptiste Day, all adults who want a vaccine should have received their first shots, Legault said. "That's the date we are giving ourselves."

Earlier Tuesday, Quebec reported 561 new COVID-19 infections and eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three that occurred in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 20, to 533, and 91 people were in intensive care, a drop of five. Quebec has 6,753 active reported COVID-19 cases.

The province said it administered 28,861 vaccine doses Monday, for a total of 774,600, representing slightly more than nine per cent of the population.

Officials reported 179 more confirmed cases of novel coronavirus variants Tuesday, mainly involving the B.1.1.7 mutation first detected in the United Kingdom. Quebec has reported a total of 298,747 cases and 10,558 deaths linked to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press