'Too soon' to say whether 28-day semi-lockdown will lift on Oct. 28, Arruda says

Despite some hopeful signs and an apparent "stabilizing" of case numbers, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on Tuesday, several regions of the province are now being moved to red zone rules.

And Quebec's Public Health Director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said it is "too soon" to discuss what will happen on Oct. 28, after the 28-day semi-lockdown for Montreal and some other regions was originally scheduled to lift.

The two leaders made the comments in their daily COVID-19 update, the first after the long weekend.

New case counts were under 900 on Monday and Tuesday, the lowest numbers in a week.

"Things seem to be stabilizing.. we don't seem to be going towards 1,500 or 2,000 cases," Legault said.

"So, once again, it's too early to celebrate, but... there's reason to believe that the efforts we're making are bearing fruit."

Still, the province is seeing a worrisome spread of cases outside of major cities, necessitating the move to red for a few regions: All of Monteregie, Centre du Quebec and the Quebec City region, including Charlevoix.

One region is also moving to orange zone rules, Legault said: The Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

The new rules were likely to go into effect on Friday, Legault said, with more details to follow.

Arruda said that he's also been encouraged in the last few days, though warned people against assuming that progress meant they'd go back to the summertime status quo.

"Essentially, it's too soon to talk about what's going to happen the 28th of October," Arruda said.

It's important to remember that "15 days in a COVID situation is an eternity," Arruda said, describing how people's actions on a single day tend to only really show up 10 or 15 days later, when it's clear not only how many new infections there are, but how sick the infected people are getting.

Right now, he said, "we feel we've reached a certain plateau" and are happy to see that people seem to be respecting the restrictions.

However, the province needs more time to look at overall trends and will be acting cautiously, both he and Legault reiterated several times.

"I don't think we can come back to the freedom that we had this summer, necessarily," said Arruda, "as long as we haven't stabilized the stiuation."

Legault said that there seems to be an unavoidable "yo-yo" process in all countries around the world.

"We are trying to open the tap a little bit to have a more normal life, then when we see we've opened it too much we close it down a little bit," he said.

He added at another point that it is "too soon to talk about Christmas" and whether big gatherings will be possible, and also "too soon" to talk about when to expect a vaccine.

Legault also encouraged Quebecers to download the COVID-19 tracing app and, most of all, to limit their gatherings as much as possible and follow the rules.

"The most important thing to do is reduce indoor gatherings," he said.

He repeated several times that the virus can spread easily in small, indoor spaces, even if people remain two metres apart.

"Even if you're two metres away, it's possible to infect people, especially if we are in a room for more than 15 minutes," he said.

He said these "sacrifices" are necessary to save lives, to keep Quebec kids in school and to limit the pressure on health-care providers. Everyone should keep in mind, he said, that they could be the next person to get sick and need hospital care.

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