Health Minister Christian Dubé acknowledged Monday that the province has entered a third wave of COVID-19, even as some restrictions loosen in Montreal and cases rise in the regions.
Dubé said the government had anticipated another rise in cases but that the decision to have students in grades 9 to 11 return full-time, as well as to re-open gyms and other fitness centres, was made with people's well-being in mind.
"It's a balance," he told reporters at a news conference in Montréal-Nord. "The deconfinement measures are there for people's mental health."
Following Dubé's speech on Monday, Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board put out a release saying that it would be returning to the hybrid model for high school students.
"In light of the evolution of the situation and the most recent declaration made by the Health Minister, Christian Dubé, stating that we are now in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are suspending classes for tomorrow," reads the statement.
The board informed parents it would take the day Tuesday to plan a smooth return to the hybrid model which would resume on Wednesday.
The growing presence of more transmissible variants of the coronavirus, along with the race to get more people vaccinated, have added new layers of complexity to the latest surge of COVID-19.
An outbreak at a gym in Quebec City, where fitness centres were allowed to reopen last month, resulted in roughly 40 cases and served as a reminder of the risks of reopening.
Dubé said Monday he will be watching the situation closely and if hospitalizations go up, the province may need to reintroduce some measures.
He made the comments alongside Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal's public health director, who has been outspoken about trying to delay a third wave for as long as possible.
The province reported 891 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths on Monday. Hospitalizations, meanwhile, remained below 500.
Drouin said she expects variants to begin to make up more cases after Easter and it will be crucial to keep them under control.
"Every day we win against the variant is a day when thousands of people are vaccinated."
"We know it's more transmissible and it can also create more complications."
She said there is growing evidence that the available vaccines not only greatly reduce serious illness and death but also transmission.
Drouin and Dubé were at a community organization in Montréal-Nord which is offering the vaccine. Dubé said it's important to have smaller sites to reach residents that may be hesitant to be inoculated.
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The news conference was held Monday morning, before Quebec announced it would temporarily stop administering the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to people under the age of 55.
The move came following updated guidelines from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.