Baseball, soccer will soon be allowed as Quebec eases COVID-19 restrictions

Quebec will allow outdoor team sports to gradually resume next week as the province continues to emerge from its COVID-19 shutdown, the government announced on Thursday

Outdoor practices will be allowed to restart on June 8, and matches can resume at the end of the month, Isabelle Charest, Quebec's minister for sports and leisure, said.

That includes baseball, soccer and any other sports that can be played outdoors, Charest said. But some rules will need to be changed to allow players to keep a safe distance between them to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she said.

"Some sports are more easily adaptable than others," the minister told reporters during a briefing in Quebec City.

"Baseball, among others, is more easily adaptable than soccer or basketball."

Charest said Quebec sports associations and federations are working with public health officials to come up with new guidelines to maintain social distancing as their sports resume.

Many questions remain, however, around how various sports will actually be able to be played while respecting social distancing.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director, said he is confident the leagues would find innovative ways to get back on the field safely.

He said a situation where players quickly run by each other on the soccer field does not present the same risk as being next to someone for a long period of time.

The rules around social distancing, which now call for a two-metre distance, could also change over the next few weeks, Arruda said. "Maybe one day the distance will go down to one metre, particularly when it's young people (playing sports), because the risk of infection is less," he said.

Quebec allowed outdoor, non-contact sports such as tennis, golf and cycling to resume on May 20.

Earlier on Thursday, the province reported 91 additional COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 4,885 across Quebec. Sixty-five of those deaths happened before May 28 but were only added to the provincial tally on Thursday.

There were 259 additional COVID-19 cases for a total of 52,143 since the pandemic began. Nearly half of all the cases and over 60 per cent of the deaths are in the Montreal area.

Premier Francois Legault said Quebecers need to remain vigilant and respect public health directives to prevent the virus from spreading.

"We must follow the steps and be patient and above all, we must not stop our individual efforts against the virus," Legault said. "We are going in the right direction, but we don't want to backtrack."

He also said his government has received 79,000 applications to date for a program to recruit orderlies to work in Quebec's long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs. The province intends to begin training 10,000 new orderlies later this month.

Legault added that he is confident Quebec would be able to keep until September the Canadian soldiers who have been deployed in understaffed CHSLDs.

As of June 3, over 64 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Quebec have been in the CHSLDs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 4, 2020.

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