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Vaccine and mask mandates to end across Quebec

BY Ben Powless Mar 29, 2022

Eeyou Istchee has now entered Step 2 of the Deconfinement Management Plan, as Cree health officials maneuver away from a policy of preventing Covid entirely toward one of managing it, as many jurisdictions worldwide have also done. 

Step 2 requires that vaccinated individuals returning from more than 72 hours in an area of risk take a rapid test on Days 1, 3 and 5 after returning. Those who are unvaccinated no longer are required to self-isolate, but rather follow a period of “reduced activity protocol” for seven days, while also getting tested on Days 1, 3, 5 and 7.

The reduced activity protocol means individuals cannot enter indoor public places, cannot attend private indoor or outdoor gatherings, cannot go to other people’s homes, and may only go outdoors or to workplaces and schools that have authorized their return. 

Step 2 is in effect until March 24. Step 3, which is set to begin on March 25, will phase out the requirements of the reduced activity protocol, regardless of vaccination status. 

Individuals who do test positive are still required to self-isolate for 10 days, and 10 days isolation is required for those who are close contacts of a positive case. 

As of March 11, there were 374 reported active cases of Covid in the Cree communities, with 140 cases in Waskaganish and 95 in Chisasibi. There were five reported deaths from the current outbreak, an increase by one since the last update, while 27 people were hospitalized. 

Eastmain, Nemaska, Wemindji and Whapmagoostui were in Phase 4 of deconfinement protocols, allowing for no restrictions on the number of households gathered indoors or outdoors. Outdoor gatherings were restricted to 150 people, while indoor gatherings were restricted to 50 people.

The remaining communities were in Phase 3 of deconfinement, with indoor and outdoor gatherings restricted to three households, and 25 people and 75 people, respectively. The entirety of Quebec and Ontario was still considered an area at risk, outside of Eeyou Istchee and northern Quebec. 

Nationally, reported cases continued to decline, with 5,000 new cases – down from a record high of 49,000 in December. 

Quebec removed proof of vaccine requirements for businesses including bars, restaurants, large retailers, movie theatres and sporting events. However, the vaccine mandate remains in place for federally regulated transportation, including air and rail. 

The news also came with the announcement that capacity restrictions for all spaces would be lifted, including gyms, spas, bars, restaurants and saunas. Dancing, karaoke and buffets are also now allowed. Seniors’ homes no longer have visitor limits and private senior homes no longer require signing in. 

The Quebec government signalled that mask mandates may be removed by mid-April for public spaces and by May for public transit. The mask requirement was removed in elementary and high schools after the March break. 

Quebec health officials are discussing recommending a fourth dose of vaccine to vulnerable seniors, as the third dose became available for people of the age 12-17. 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.