Legault says he's confident Quebec-Ontario boundary will reopen in 'next few days'

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MONTREAL — The boundary between Quebec and Ontario, closed since April to reduce COVID-19 transmission, will likely reopen within days, Quebec Premier François Legault said Thursday.

"We are in discussion with the Ontario government, and I am confident that in the next few days we will be able to open the borders," Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

The Ontario government had recently extended its ban on non-essential travel from Quebec and Manitoba until at least June 16.

As for the border between Canada and the United States, Legault said discussions with the federal government are ongoing.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Wednesday that fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents who test negative for COVID-19 will likely soon be exempt from two weeks of quarantine on return to Canada.

Legault admitted on Thursday his government has had trouble implementing its plan to accelerate the timeline for second COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Quebec had said people could rebook their vaccination appointments, after the government shortened the interval between first and second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. But on Monday, Health Minister Christian Dubé said only people who had received the Pfizer vaccine would be able to reschedule their appointments because of limited supplies of the Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.

The premier said Dubé would speak to reporters later on Thursday to clear up confusion and make booking second-dose appointments easier.

Dubé is also scheduled to present his government's plan to catch up on surgeries that have been delayed because of the pandemic. He has said he wants to wait until the end of August to start reducing the backlog in order to give health-care workers a summer break.

About 150,000 surgeries have been delayed in Quebec.

Quebec reported 189 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, none of which occurred in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by six, to 251, and 64 people were in intensive care, a rise of four.

The province said 84,936 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Wednesday; about 67.2 per cent of Quebecers have received at least one dose.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 10, 2021.

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press