Coronavirus: Bars, hotels, spas allowed to reopen as Quebec enters final phase of deconfinement

Quebec’s public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda announced on Thursday "the last steps" of a conditional reopening of the province amid the coronavirus pandemic, which allows for almost all businesses and places to open with proper health measures in place with the exception of large festivals and events, overnight camps and sporting events.

Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda announced Thursday the final phase of the province’s conditional deconfinement will allow for all but three sectors of the economy to reopen including bars, water parks, spas and hotels.

“I expected a week, a few weeks. But when he said ‘open right away,’ I said, ‘I’m in!’ I opened right away,” said Ziggy Eichenbaum, the owner of Ziggy’s Pub.

The three exceptions include festivals where large crowds could gather, combat sports where there is close physical contact between participants and sleep-away camps for children.

Arruda said the decision to fully reopen was based on the progression of the virus.

“Based on the epidemiology we have observed around cases, hospitalized people and people who die from COVID-19, things are going better,” he said.

“Based on that, based on the fact that we have deconfined different sectors and there is no flare up of the epidemic.”

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Businesses allowed to reopen will have to put in place hygiene measures and follow public health guidelines.

Arruda warned, however, reopening is conditional and a surge in cases could force the province to scale back.

“It’s good news for Quebec,” he said, “Even if we are deconfining, there is still a big need to be careful.”

He explained deconfining doesn’t mean relaxing measures and reminded everyone of the importance of maintaining physical distancing, regular handwashing and wearing a face mask when in public spaces and places where keeping a two-metre distance isn’t possible.

While Arruda fears a second wave of COVID-19, he stands by the decision to reopen.

“We cannot stay confined for all years,” he said. “There are bad impacts of confinement on kids, on elderly people, on mental health, on suicides, on violence at home…that’s why we have to deconfine.”

He says because Quebec’s deconfinement has been progressive it has allowed health officials to monitor the situation.

“We did schools…there was no big outbreaks…there’s been deconfining of things in Montreal and there doesn’t seem to have a big problem,” he said.

“Because of the seasonality and because of the indicators, that’s the moment to do it.”

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Arruda also pointed to a stabilization of the epidemiological situation as the reason why health officials will only be providing weekly updates on coronavirus data, rather than daily updates.

“There is not enough cases to be publishing every day,” he said. “So the next information of cases and hospitalizations and diseased people will be on July 2.”

Arruda said they would resume publishing daily numbers if there were an important surge in new cases.

As of Thursday,  the total number of COVID-19 cases soared to 55,079.

That is an additional 142 new cases in the last 24 hours and more than double the 53 new cases reported on Wednesday.

Quebec reported seven new deaths linked to the virus, six in the last 24 hours and one that took place before June 17, bringing the total number of fatalities to 5,448.

The amount of stress on the health-care network continues to ease. As of Thursday, 487 people were in hospital —13 fewer than the previous day. Of those, 50 are in the intensive care unit.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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