Loading articles...

Habs to potentially welcome back fans as Quebec presents sweeping reopening plan

Last Updated May 19, 2021 at 9:01 am PDT

Seats are shown at the Bell Centre prior to an NHL hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs in Montreal, Saturday, February 9, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

Quebec planning to lift curfew starting May 28

Quebec's reopening plan includes possible removal of mask mandate in late August

Montreal Canadiens say they will allow 2,500 fans in the Bell Centre starting May 29

Quebec Premier Francois Legault presented his government’s COVID-19 reopening plan Tuesday, which begins with lifting the curfew on May 28 and ends with the possible removal of the mask mandate in late August.

Legault said five major restrictions will be eased May 28: the curfew will be lifted, restaurant patios can reopen, up to eight people can gather outside in backyards, inter-regional travel can resume and indoor venues can start welcoming up to 2,500 people at once.

The Montreal Canadiens say they will allow 2,500 fans in the Bell Centre starting May 29 now with the province’s updated guidance — this will make it the first professional team in Canada to permit attendance since the pandemic shutdown.

“We are delighted with the government’s decision regarding shows and events,” France Margaret Bélanger, the Canadiens’ Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer said in a statement.

“Although the number of spectators remains limited, we applaud this decision which allows us to foresee an eventual return to normality.”

The change would come in time for a potential game six in the Canadiens first round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Before Quebec laid out its plans, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said he doesn’t see the country joining the U.S. in allowing fans into arenas during the NHL playoffs.

Dr. Howard Njoo says allowing fans into games is something that is not under “serious consideration” at this point in the pandemic.

So far, all of the American NHL playoff games have had fans in the stands.

Legault’s plan for Quebec is divided into three general steps. By May 31, the “vast majority” of Quebec will be moved to the orange pandemic-alert level, he said, under which high school students are in school full time and restaurants can fully reopen.

By June 14, Legault says most regions will be at the yellow level, under which people from two different households can gather indoors and bars can reopen. And by June 28, the premier said most regions will be at the green level, where “small parties” can take place indoors with up to 10 people from three separate households. The green level also permits the resumption of indoor team sports.

Legault’s plan came the day he reported that 75 per cent of Quebec adults had received at least one dose of vaccine or had an appointment to get one.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of Quebecers,” he told reporters in Quebec City, adding that his government was worried young people would be more hesitant to get vaccinated but was pleasantly surprised.

RELATED: Ontario’s reopening plan coming ‘very soon,’ Elliott says

“Today we see that there is hope,” Legault said, after imposing various levels of strict lockdown measures across the province since Oct. 1. “We can start to see each other again.”

And by June 25, Legault said, Quebecers who are fully vaccinated can visit each other indoors without wearings masks or physical distancing.

He added that festivals can also begin operating again outdoors with up to 2,500 people.

Legault’s plan ends in August with the possible lifting of the mask mandate in most situations — if 75 per cent of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated with two doses. “No more masks in most public areas in Quebec,” Legault said.

Meanwhile, for the second consecutive day, health officials Tuesday reported the lowest number of new daily cases since September. Officials reported 549 new COVID-19 infections and nine more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including four within the previous 24 hours. They said hospitalizations dropped by 17, to 484, and 118 people were in intensive care, an increase of two.

As of Tuesday morning, 49 per cent of all Quebecers — 60 per cent of adults — had received at least one vaccine dose, according to government data.

Officials said 70,122 doses of vaccine were administered Monday, for a total of 4,469,055.