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People enjoy the warm weather along the lakeshore, in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Premier Francois Legault on Thursday offered Quebecers a “moral contract” for the Christmas holidays while extending lockdown orders across most of the province until Jan. 11.

If Quebecers isolate for one week before Christmas and one week after, gatherings up to 10 people will be allowed between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27, Legault told reporters in Montreal.

“I want to offer a moral contract for the holiday season,” he said. “We will permit gatherings for four days.”

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He asked employers to be flexible around the holiday period and allow employees time to isolate – either through remote work or by reducing business activities. The premier said his proposed contract won’t apply to New Year’s Eve.

The premier also announced an extension of the school winter break. Primary schools will close a few days early, on Dec. 17, and reopen in January at their previously scheduled dates. Secondary schools will close Dec. 17 and reopen one week later than scheduled, on Jan. 11.

“These aren’t vacations,” Legault said. “Work will be sent to students, and teachers will be in contact daily, either by phone or through video conference.” Schools for special needs children will not have their winter breaks extended, he added.

And while he brought good news about holiday gatherings, Legault had bad news for business owners. The partial lockdown measures – which have been in place in so-called red zones including Montreal and Quebec City since Oct. 1 – will remain until at least Jan 11.

“There are just too many cases,” Legault said.

Quebec reported 1,207 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 34 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials said seven of the new deaths had occurred in the past 24 hours, 19 occurred between Nov. 12 and 17, and the rest took place earlier or on an unknown date.

Authorities said hospitalizations decreased by one to 651, and 101 people were in intensive care, an increase of one. Quebec has reported a total of 128,440 COVID-19 infections and 6,744 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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