The Quebec government says parks and pools will be permitted to reopen across the province as health authorities reported the fewest number of confirmed new cases of COVID-19 since late March on Saturday.
The total number of deaths in the province linked to COVID-19 stood at 4,439 after 76 were reported over the past day, but the 419 new cases in the past 24 hours was the lowest since March 28.
The total number of confirmed cases in the province was 50,651.
On Saturday, Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann and Municipal Affairs Minister Andree Laforest announced in a statement that the province was giving the green light to the reopening of outdoor pools, wading pools and outdoor park structures — including splash pads — for the summer.
Physical distancing and other health and hygiene measures will be in effect. The province says those responsible for maintaining parks should clean frequently touched surfaces regularly and there should be a spot for people to wash their hands.
The move will give Quebecers a place to cool off this summer as parts of the province came off an unexpected May heat wave last week with temperatures rising above 30C.
“The precautionary measures adopted since the start of the crisis should not make us lose sight of the other essential health needs of citizens, especially during hot weather,” McCann said.
Aside from a reduction in the number of new cases, the province also said hospitalizations declined by 68 to 1,197 patients. The number of patients in intensive care dropped to 167, and 16,070 people across the province have recovered.
Nearly half of the confirmed cases are in Montreal, where officials extended a state of emergency in place since March 27, giving city officials flexibility in dealing with the pandemic.
Montreal is the epicentre of COVID-19 in Canada, reporting 2,740 deaths as of Saturday.
Late Friday, Quebec’s far northern region of Nunavik announced it was lifting travel restrictions immediately and would allow air travel between its 14 communities to resume as of June 8.
The vast region, which makes up the northern third of the province, has been COVID-19 free for more than three weeks.
It has been locked down since April 3, with travel restricted between the 14 communities to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the remote region.
“The lockdown has taken a toll on the mental health of many citizens,” Nunavik health authorities said in a statement.
Families have split up for long periods and the lockdown measures came during the traditional time when people harvest fish and wildlife.
“Being COVID case free for almost a month has opened the door to lifting several restrictions,” officials said.
Travel from southern Quebec will remain restricted, with only humanitarian, medical and essential travel permitted.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press