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People wait in line outside Montreal's Olympic Stadium to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on April 8, 2021.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

There is no need to change Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy despite reports of empty walk-in vaccine clinics in the Montreal area, Premier Francois Legault said Thursday.

Legault told reporters in Quebec City he’s happy with the vaccine rollout, including at walk-in clinics offering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 55 to 79.

He said the province administered more than 67,700 vaccine doses Wednesday and more than 19,000 were of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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“I’m very satisfied with the result,” he said.

Legault was asked whether the province should review its vaccination strategy for Montreal after reports that many vaccine clinics in the region are running under capacity with many spaces unfilled.

The premier said Montreal may be quieter because the province is focusing on getting other parts of Quebec caught up after initially prioritizing the metropolis in the initial weeks of the vaccination campaign.

Despite appearances, he said the province isn’t getting enough doses to expand access to more groups.

“We have a certain number of doses available now, not enough for our taste, until the end of May,” he said. “We expect to have many doses beginning in June, but from now until the end of May, everything is assigned, and everything will be used.”

Quebec is currently vaccinating essential workers, people with chronic illnesses and people over 60. Those 55 and up can receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at walk-in clinics as of last week.

The province has administered more than 2.1 million of the 2.8 million doses it has received, although some are still in transit through the system.

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Quebec government reported 1,513 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 15 additional deaths due to the pandemic. Hospitalizations rose by one, to 661, and the number of people in intensive care rose by seven, to 159.

The premier also addressed the controversy surrounding his decision to roll back some of the rules for outdoor mask wearing, after the initial health order was blasted by critics as confusing and arbitrary.

Legault had originally ordered that two or more people from separate households had to wear masks outside at all times unless they were sitting down at least two metres apart.

The decision sparked criticism from the golf industry, some doctors and the political opposition. Some pointed out the rules meant that a romantic couple who don’t live together needed to wear masks outside but not at home.

On Wednesday, Legault specified that masks only needed to be worn in situations when it’s difficult to keep a two-metre distance. He said the mask rule needn’t apply for sports like tennis or golf, for romantic couples who don’t live together, or for a single person who has joined a family bubble.

Legault said he was doing his best to respond to an evolving situation and that he changed the rules as soon as he realized some of them were impractical.

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“I’m not perfect, like all Quebecers,” he said.

The premier also defended his decision to announce the changes on Facebook rather than in question period or at a news conference, saying he hadn’t wanted to wait to deliver the news.

Quebec is bringing back an 8 p.m. curfew in the Montreal area and extending a lockdown order in three cities and one region as it tightens COVID-19 restrictions for the second time in just three days. The Canadian Press

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