There is hope that Quebecers will be able to enjoy some semblance of summer as the Quebec government continues to ease coronavirus restrictions across the province.
On Friday, Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault accompanied by the minister of Culture and Communications Nathalie Roy and other officials announced that certain cultural venues would be opening their doors to the public as early as May 29.
Included in the announcement are museums, loan services at public libraries and drive in theatres.
Roy specified that in libraries, book and document lending will be the only services allowed to reopen, and the public won’t be able to circulate beyond the lending counters.
On June 1, recording studios and the taping of shows, or concerts — without an audience — will be permitted provided strict rules are followed. Performers on stage or in studios will have to keep a two-metre distance and technical teams must be reduced to a maximum of five people.
Friday is also the day that Quebecers can finally get together outdoors in small groups of 10 from three different households as long as they stay two metres apart.
On Monday, Montreal retailers with direct street access will be allowed to open, finally joining other retailers across Quebec who were given the green light to reopen two weeks ago.
With the news Thursday that day camps have been given the go-ahead to operate as of June 22, summer is shaping up.
Respecting public health guidelines
Guilbault warned, however, that the gradual reopening of the economy and other sectors of activity hangs in a fine balance.
“It we don’t follow the rules and we deconfine too quickly we may have to take a step back.” she said. “That would be disappointing and depressing for everyone.”
Officials continued to hammer home the need to respect all the guidelines, including wearing a mask in public, keeping two metres apart and handwashing.
Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda admitted he fears people will slack off as the nice weather continues and fall back into their old habits.
“Being away from other persons is not natural for humans,” he said. ” We want people to get outside but if they get too much contact, if there are too much people together, that augments the risk.”
Arruda said the virus will continue to spread as most of the population has yet to be exposed, but we have to remain vigilant to avoid a second wave.
“But If we go back the same way it’s like those people who have died, died for nothing because we haven’t learned,” he said.
The importance of testing
Quebec remains the province with the highest caseload and death toll related to COVID-19. It not only leads the country, but it has more than half of Canada’s total number of infections.
On Friday, Quebec reported 65 new deaths for a total of 3,865 fatalities since the health crisis began. There are 46,141 cases, an increase of 646 from the previous day.
The number of hospitalizations has decreased by 25 and stands at 1,479. There are five fewer patients in the ICU for a total of 171.
Guilbault was encouraged by the fact that the numbers are going down despite a significant increase in testing.
“Quebec is the place that tests the most in Canada and one of the places that tests the most in the world, all things considered,” she said.
The deputy minister, however, admitted the province is still falling short of its intended target of 14,000 tests a day.
“For this, we need the collaboration of Quebecers. If you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is sick, we ask you to go for a test,” Guilbault urged.
Increased testing is part of Quebec’s strategy to ensure a safe reopening.
“It’s in testing more and more that we’ll be able to know where infected people are and have an accurate portrait of the situation in Quebec and to better target our interventions to limit the spread,” Guilbault said.
She also said that Quebec would gladly accept help from the federal government in terms of contact tracing.
“We’re open to that, and we’ll see how we can incorporate that into the strategies we already have,” Guilbault said.
Arruda clarified that Ottawa had offered the services of 1,700 people for all provinces and that as of Friday morning, Quebec had requested the help of 500 of them.
— With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise
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