MONTREAL — Premier François Legault says he would like to permit Quebec families to host up to 25 people for the Christmas holidays, but the opposition says the premier is sowing confusion and creating expectations.
For the second consecutive day, Legault told reporters Tuesday it was his wish that indoor gathering limits would increase during the holidays to 20 people or 25 people — up from 10. He made the same comment on Monday, adding that he had to wait for advice from public health authorities before he could issue an order.
“What I (said) yesterday is I hope, personally, that we can increase the number of people in houses from 10 to 20 or 25,” Legault said Tuesday.
“I hope so, but we’ll have recommendations from (Quebec's public health director) next week.”
Opposition parties were quick to criticize the premier for the statements, suggesting they were similar to his comments last year, when he had told Quebecers indoor gathering rules would be eased for the holidays, before backing down. Shortly after, he imposed a curfew across most of the province that lasted for almost five months.
On Tuesday, Liberal André Fortin told reporters that the premier's comments on Monday came on the same day as health authorities said they had identified a case in the province involving the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
"If we want the rules to be respected, we can't just throw wishes in the air like that," Fortin said. "This is what creates confusion among Quebecers; this is what creates uncertainty about the rules."
Quebec solidaire's Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois suggested Legault was playing a dangerous game by creating expectations.
"Quebecers have been in a pandemic for almost two years," he said. "They understand how health measures work. They know what a variant is. They know it can be bad news. We must not play with people's mental health; we must not play with their expectations of finally having a beautiful Christmas."
Legault defended the response when asked Tuesday if he was giving false hope to Quebecers.
“Journalists asked me yesterday, 'Personally, what do you think?'" Legault said Tuesday, jokingly adding, “maybe I should not answer these kinds of questions.”
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 784 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and three more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health authorities said COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by one compared with the prior day, to 227, after 25 people entered hospital and 24 people were discharged. The number of intensive care patients rose by six, to 51.
The province said 19,732 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were given on Monday, including more than 11,000 first shots to the five-to-11 age group. The Health Department said more than 81,000 children aged five to 11 had received a first dose of vaccine since last Wednesday, adding that more than 143,000 had appointments to get one.
Quebec's public health institute said 91.2 per cent of those 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine and 88.9 per cent were considered adequately vaccinated.
The province has 7,913 active reported cases.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2021.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press