MONTREAL — Restaurant dining rooms will be allowed to reopen in Montreal next week for the first time since the end of September, Quebec Premier François Legault announced Tuesday.
Quebec's largest city, Legault added, will move on Monday from the red COVID-19 alert level to the lower orange stage, under which gyms can also reopen. Montreal will be joined by its northern suburb Laval and several other Quebec municipalities still at the red level.
The orange level also allows secondary school students to return to in-person classes full time, instead of having online classes on alternating days.
"Thanks to all your efforts, the situation continues to improve in Quebec," the premier said.
Six other Quebec regions and part of a seventh will see restrictions eased even further on Monday, Legault told reporters in Quebec City. Those include the regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord and Nord du Québec, which will move to the lowest alert level, under which indoor gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed.
Legault, however, urged caution. "We have to stay very careful with indoor gatherings, we need to keep our distances and wear the mask until we have our two doses."
He said Quebecers should expect a rise in cases in the Montreal region as restrictions are lifted. But Quebec public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said any rise is unlikely to have an impact on the province's health-care system, adding that most older people will soon be protected with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Relaxing restrictions, Arruda added, is important because "we cannot stay in prison for a long time." Arruda, however, said it was too early to say when the government's pandemic-alert system will be shelved.
Earlier Tuesday, Quebec reported 208 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one within the previous 24 hours. Montreal reported the highest number of new cases in the province, with 35, followed by the Montérégie region, south of Montreal, with 34.
Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by eight, to 354, and 86 people were in intensive care, a drop of three.
The province said 65,917 doses of vaccine were administered since its last report, for a total of 5,648,992. Quebec's public health institute said 61.3 per cent of residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Quebec will announce a plan to accelerate second doses of COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday, Legault said.
Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters Tuesday the government needs to do more to encourage young people to get vaccinated. He said about 200,000 more people between the ages of 18 and 40 need to book an appointment for the government to reach its goal of vaccinating 75 per cent of that age group.
On Monday, the Health Department said officials will begin vaccinating temporary foreign workers when they arrive at the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press