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Quebec premier expected to announce end to curfew, back-to-school plan

Latest measures come as public health research institute predicts COVID-19 hospital stays nearing their peak

Quebec Premier François Legault in press conference.

François Legault holds a news conference with Health Minister Christian Dubé, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge and interim public health director Dr. Luc Boileau.

Photo: (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

RCI

Quebec's much-maligned second curfew of the pandemic could be coming to an end soon, with government leaders and public health officials expected to announce a relaxing of some COVID-19 measures Thursday afternoon, according to Radio-Canada.

Premier François Legault will speak to Quebecers at 3 p.m. alongside Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, Health Minister Christian Dubé and interim Public Health Director Luc Boileau. 

They are also expected to announce that schools will be reopening to in-person learning on Monday, addressing what measures will be in place to reduce the risk of transmission among school personnel and students, as well as what they will do about staff shortages.

Several CEGEPs and universities have already announced that they plan to reopen later this month.

Vaccine passports at more stores

The government is also expected to announce that customers will soon be required to show their vaccine passports to shop at big-box stores.

The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew began almost exactly two weeks ago, garnering criticism as Legault provided little evidence that curfews are effective at slowing transmission of the virus. 

The announcement of the latest measures come on the same day that Quebec's public health research institute, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), released its latest pandemic projections. 

The INSPQ predicts a reduction in hospitalizations by the end of the month, with new hospital admissions peaking sometime next week. 

CAQ's popularity waning

Legault last addressed the province on Tuesday, when he named Boileau, the former head of the province's public health-care research institute, L'Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS), to the post of interim public health director. 

Dr. Horacio Arruda, who had held the position since 2012, handed in his letter of resignation Monday evening. 

Arruda had been criticized for supporting Legault's move in early December to allow indoor gatherings of up to 20 people over the holidays, as well as for offering little evidence to back a return to an overnight curfew, announced the day before New Year's Eve. 

He also came under fire at the end of December for saying N95 masks were not as efficient as surgical masks if worn improperly.

The premier also said Tuesday he intended to charge unvaccinated Quebecers a "health contribution" (new window) — an amount he said might be added when people filed their income tax. Legault did not provide further details.

Nearly 13 per cent of Quebecers over the age of five have not yet received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and they represent about 46 per cent of new intensive care admissions, according to the Quebec Ministry of Health. 

Legal and ethics experts question (new window) whether such a punitive measure is the right way to persuade people to get immunized.

Legault remains one of the Canadian premiers with the most popular support, though recent data collected by the polling aggregation website Qc125.org show support for his party, Coalition Avenir Québec, appears to have declined.

About 43 per cent of those surveyed said they support the CAQ, compared to 47.4 per cent in early December.

Verity Stevenson (new window) · CBC News with files from Radio-Canada

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