MONTREAL —
Secondary three, four and five students in Montreal and Quebec’s other red zones will be going back to attending class on alternate days.

Premier Francois Legault announced the reinstatement of the emergency public health measure during a press conference on Tuesday. The measure will go into effect on Monday. Extracurricular activities in red zones will also be cancelled for the time being.

It’s a reversal of a decision to allow students back in class full-time that was announced just weeks ago. Legault said the decision was made at the time based off input from Public Health.

“This week, Public Health says ‘No, now we’re closing them.’ I could get angry, maybe I was a little at the beginning. I could get angry at the experts or say the situation is evolving and we accept that it’s evolving.”

The premier took a shot at the English Montreal School Board, saying the EMSB “did not want to go back full time. They resisted for many days, they were told ‘No, students have to go back full time,'” he said.

“And to be told today they are going back to alternate days, that’s what they wanted at the beginning… I would like to hear the English Montreal School Board’s experts, to know whether they’re better than the experts in public health at the (Institute of Public Health) because I would like them to tell me where we’re going to be in two weeks.”

In a statement, the EMSB said there would “no difficulty” in adjusting to the new measures. 

“We respectfully ask the Quebec government to please retain this hybrid model for the rest of the school year,” said EMSB Chair Joe Ortona.

“Our staff, students and parents were placed under tremendous duress with the changes recommended by the government. We provided very clear arguments why this was not a good idea and we’d like to think our voices were heard.”

Other returning measures include the shutting down of indoor sports activities, such as gyms, as of Thursday, as well as lowering the number of people permitted in houses of worship to 25. 

Legault called the new measures preventive, saying that while Montreal has not seen a significant increase in daily new cases, the same cannot be said of other regions, some of which have recently been recategorized as red zones.

He noted the large increase in daily new cases in Ontario and said public health believes it’s only a matter of time before the same is seen in Montreal. 

He noted that the number of tickets handed out by police since curfew was extended from 8 p.m to 9:30 p.m. have tripled. 

“We juggled the idea of bringing the curfew back to 8 p.m in red zones but at the same time, public health is telling us there are many people working later and there are people who want to walk around with spring coming,” said Legault.

“But we will not hesitate, if there is an increase in the number of cases in Montreal, we will bring the curfew back down to 8 p.m.”

The new restrictions reverse decisions that were announced just weeks ago. Legault defended his record, saying he has been trying to give Quebecers as much freedom as possible. 

“I say very often that better is the enemy of good. If we hadn’t wanted to take any chances, we would have closed everything down in January, February and March, in case there was a third wave. But we try to give a little bit of freedom, to keep that balance.”

The premier also refuted experts who publically called for a preemptive shutdown in Montreal.

“If we had listened to the doctors and closed everything down in Montreal last week, well for the time being, there’s no increase in cases,” he said.

“However, there might be tomorrow or the following week or in two. That is why we act quickly. If there’s an increase in cases or hospitalizations, we don’t wait.”

Changes are also coming to Quebec’s orange zone measures. Legault announced masks would become mandatory for primary school students in those areas, a measure already in place for red zones. Capacity for houses of worship will also be reduced in orange zones, from a maximum of 250 people to 100. 

LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: So…tighter restrictions…will it work this time? Dr. Mitch Shulman weighs in

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CTVNews.ca

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