Quebec to loosen COVID-19 rules for seniors' residences as situation improves

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MONTREAL — Quebec will begin relaxing rules around long-term care and seniors' residences next week, no longer requiring appointments to visit loved ones and allowing fully vaccinated residents to gather without masks, the province's seniors' minister announced Friday.

Marguerite Blais told a news conference in Quebec City that authorities are able to loosen restrictions because the province's epidemiological situation is improving and vaccination is progressing at a good rate.

"Seniors and people living in these different environments, like all Quebecers, will be able to start seeing their loved ones again with fewer restrictions," Blais said.

The situation in the province's long-term care homes and seniors' residences has improved in recent weeks, with no cases reported in either living environment in the previous 24 hours on Thursday, the last day for which data was published. The province has administered both doses of COVID-19 vaccine in long-term care homes and it's almost done in seniors’ residences, Blais said.

Masks, distancing and handwashing will still be required, but beginning Monday, residents in the province's green COVID-19 alert zones will be able to have up to nine visitors either indoors or outdoors, while those in yellow zones will be able to have members of a family bubble visit. In the orange alert levels, one person at a time will be able to visit an elder.

In green and yellow alert levels, residents will be able to eat at the same table as visitors and with larger groups at a table. Some leisure activities will also resume.

Provincewide, residents who leave their homes will no longer need to quarantine upon their return. And two weeks after they've received a booster, residents within a facility will be able to gather without masks in their units, said Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director.

"If we are not doing that step by step, there's a risk to coming back to a problem," Arruda said.

The colours of Quebec's COVID-19 map will change on Monday, as the last remaining red alert zones, including Montreal, move to the orange level.

Four regions will switch to green: Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord and Nord-du-Québec. Three other regions will move to yellow: Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, Mauricie—Centre-du-Québec as well as Bas-Saint-Laurent.

Quebec reported 279 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and four more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one in the previous 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 10, to 307, and 67 people were in intensive care, a drop of one.

Montreal had the most new cases, with 89, followed by Montérégie, south of Montreal, with 37 and Chaudière-Appalaches, south of Quebec City, with 34 new infections.

The province says 95,704 vaccine doses were administered on Thursday, for a total of 5,906,696; about 63.6 per cent of Quebecers have received a first dose. On Thursday, Quebec announced it will shorten the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to eight weeks from 16.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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