MONTREAL — Quebec will permit cinemas to reopen across the province and allow the resumption of limited indoor sports on Feb. 26 — ahead of the province's March break week — Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday.
The Outaouais region, which includes Gatineau and borders Ontario, will move to the lower, "orange" pandemic-alert level on Feb. 22, Legault added. Six less-populated regions are already at the orange alert level, under which gyms and in-person restaurant dining can resume.
Montreal and Quebec City, however, will remain at the highest pandemic-alert level, Legault said, adding that residents in those regions will have to continue to obey the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. nighttime curfew.
"We said that we wanted to be more prudent than less prudent," Legault said about easing restrictions. He did not say when residents of the province's biggest cities will be able to visit gyms or leave the house at night.
Also starting Feb. 26, Legault is permitting limited indoor sports across the province, in arenas and in pools, for family bubbles and groups of up to two people. Up to eight people will be able to gather outdoors. Legault said he wanted to give parents and children options for activities during March break week, which begins in the province on March 1.
The premier likened the COVID-19 situation in the province to the coming spring: "The days are getting longer and spring is coming ... but winter is not over. There are a few snowstorms left.
"It's somewhat the same thing with the pandemic. Things are getting better, but the pandemic is not over. There are still important risks for Quebecers."
The province's daily infection count and the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations continued to trend downward on Tuesday. Quebec reported 669 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including six in the past 24 hours. The number of new cases was the lowest in months, but the government hadn't yet disclosed how many COVID-19 tests had been conducted to reach that figure.
Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 33 to 771, and 134 people were in intensive care, down two. COVID-19-related hospitalizations have dropped by 198 since Feb. 7.
Earlier Tuesday, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade urged Legault's government to be more transparent about its decisions on managing the pandemic. She said any easing of restrictions should also be accompanied by more rapid testing and increased screening for COVID-19 variants.
The province said it administered 2,732 doses of vaccine on Monday, for a total of 297,694. Quebec has reported a total of 278,187 COVID-19 infections and 10,246 deaths linked to the pandemic. The province has 9,399 active reported infections.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2021.
The Canadian Press