“Today, it is announced that certain companies will reopen during the month of May, gradually”, Premier Francois Legault said in a statement on Tuesday.
Starting 4 May, Francois Legault added, all retail stores and stores with exterior entrances, except those in the Montreal metropolitan area, will be eligible to open. The construction and manufacturing sectors along with retail outlets in the Montreal region are slated to reopen on 11 May, the statement said. Manufacturers, however, will be limited to 50 workers plus half of the remaining employees. On 25 May, manufacturers can return to full operation, according to the statement. The premier said that the numbers do not tell the whole story, with the spate of outbreaks in long-term care facilities skewing the data.
With the announcement, Quebec has become the third province to begin or announce plans for a gradual easing of restrictions. On Friday, the province of New Brunswick announced that it has started to roll back some of the restrictions; Saskatchewan will begin doing the same on 4 May.
The impending move comes despite Quebec remaining the epicentre of the outbreak in Canada, with the province accounting for more than half of all confirmed cases - 24,982 - and 1,599 deaths.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial and territorial leaders said in a joint statement that coordinated easing of travel restrictions and public health capacity are among the criteria necessary to restart the Canadian economy, beset by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"Restrictions on non-essential travel, eased and managed in a coordinated manner, is one of the principles agreed upon by the provinces and the federal government", the statement said on Tuesday.
To begin gradually reopening the economy would necessitate public health capacity that would be able to support sufficient testing and contact tracing, as well as backstops, should a new spike in COVID-19 cases occur, the statement added.
Trudeau and the provincial and territorial leaders also agreed that protocols must be put in place to ensure the health and safety of those returning to work. The set of guidelines also includes stipulations to protect seniors and people in long-term health facilities, which have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
All non-essential travel between the United States and Canada has been halted since 20 March. Some Canadian provinces have also instituted inter-provincial travel restrictions, with Quebec setting up checkpoints at some provincial border crossings from Ontario.
As of Tuesday, the national Health Department has reported 50,026 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including 2,859 virus-related fatalities.