'From small parties to medium parties': All of Quebec at green alert level on Monday

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MONTREAL — All of Quebec will be at the green pandemic-alert level next week, Premier François Legault said Tuesday, as health officials reported fewer than 100 new daily COVID-19 infections for the second consecutive day.

Eight outlying regions are already green — the lowest level in Quebec's colour-coded COVID-19 response plan — and they will be joined on Monday by the province's biggest cities, including Montreal, Quebec City and Laval.

"Monday, we'll go from small parties to medium parties," Legault told reporters, adding that outdoor team sports will resume as well. "The second dose will be our big mission for the summer," he said, urging young people to book vaccination appointments.

Green-zone rules permit indoor private gatherings of up to 10 people from three separate households, and up to 20 people can gather in backyards. For restaurants and bars, up to 10 people can be seated at a table indoors and up to 20 people are allowed at each outside table. Maximum capacity at weddings and funerals will also increase next week.

On Friday, outdoor festivals can start welcoming as many as 3,500 people, Legault said. Also Friday, fully vaccinated people will no longer be required to wear masks around each other inside private homes.

One-fifth of the province's population is considered fully vaccinated, according to the latest data. The province’s public health institute said Tuesday about 80.4 per cent of Quebecers 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine while 20 per cent are fully vaccinated.

People in the 18-to-39 age bracket, however, lag behind the rest of the province regarding first doses. Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters the government wants 75 per cent of that age cohort to be vaccinated, adding that another 150,000 people need to book first-dose appointments to reach that goal.

Legault said he's hoping to coax people under 40 to get vaccinated by offering them incentives such as a lottery. “That’s why we’re thinking about the lottery," he said. "Maybe someone who is young can say, 'What’s in it for me?' And the answer is maybe a prize."

Quebec health officials said discussions are ongoing with the federal government over the definition of who is "fully vaccinated." In Quebec, someone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has had one dose of a two-dose vaccine is considered adequately vaccinated. The federal government, however, says only people who have received two vaccine doses can forgo the two-week quarantine requirement for travellers when Ottawa relaxes the rules on July 5.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's public health director, said the province will offer a second dose in the meantime to people who have had COVID-19 and only one shot and who want to travel. "In the context of those wanting to travel soon and absolutely needing a second dose, it won't be refused to them," Arruda said.

In Montreal, public health director Mylène Drouin said the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus remains a top concern. Since April, Montreal has identified 21 cases of that mutation through sequencing, she added.

"What is preoccupying us is the Delta variant, knowing that it is more transmissible and more virulent," Drouin said. "We know that usually, it comes in by big cities, so we are really aware and will have a suppressive approach."

Quebec on Tuesday posted fewer than 100 new daily cases for the second consecutive day, reporting 84 new infections and four more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health authorities said hospitalizations dropped by seven, to 161, and 40 patients were in intensive care, a rise of one. There are 1,225 active reported cases in the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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