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Quebec shuts down schools, bars, gyms, theatres as COVID-19 cases soar


The Quebec government shut down several public settings Monday evening, including bars, taverns, casinos, theatres, gyms and even schools, as cases of COVID-19 soar in a pre-holiday spike.

All those establishments were closed as of 5 p.m. Monday. 

"The situation is critical," Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said at a press conference at 1 p.m., just four hours earlier.

Schools across the province will be closed until at least Jan. 10, but remote learning could be extended further into January.

Some establishments, such as hair salons and personal care services, can remain open under the new measures. 

Restaurants dining rooms can also stay open at 50 per cent capacity but only from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Dancing and karaoke is still prohibited. 

The province is also making teleworking mandatory wherever it's possible, and those who can't work from home are required to wear a face mask at all times and once again respect physical distancing of two metres. 

Health officials have not changed the limit for gatherings in private homes, which remains at 10 people. However, people are strongly urged not to gather at all with anyone who is unvaccinated and to keep their gatherings small to reduce the chance of spreading the virus, since people can be asymptomatic. 

"If we have to add new measures, we'll do it over the coming days," Dubé said, adding that his team is meeting Monday night to go over the latest projections and that "we will not be scared of going back on certain decisions given the new information."

"We are waging war against this variant," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to work together."

On Monday, the province announced that 4,571 more people had tested positive for the coronavirus, a new record by a large margin, and that nearly 400 people are now in hospital sick with the virus. 

With testing centres already overwhelmed, the health minister urged people not to go for COVID-19 testing if they do not have symptoms. 


While vaccinations for first and second doses have ramped up in recent days, Quebec is still mum on when it will widen access to booster doses, even while other provinces like Saskatchewan and Ontario have opened up third doses to people as young as 18.

For some, it's a race against time, as two doses of vaccines appear to offer waning protection from the Omicron variant. According to one study in Israel, a third booster shot can provide greater protection from the Omicron variant. 

The current age limit for a booster shot in Quebec is 65 and older, and those 60 and older will be eligible as of Dec. 27.

Daniel Paré, the head of the mass vaccination roll-out in Quebec, said Monday that more people will be able to book their appointments "as soon as possible," but for now the province is focusing on health workers and other vulnerable populations. 

Quebec has been pleading with people to contribute to the vaccination effort, particularly for booster shots. It has launched a new callout on its online emergency staffing platform, Je Contribue, to recruit vaccination staff out of retirement or other work.

"As soon as we receive some reinforcements through Je Contribue, we will increase the number of appointments available, and we're going to be able to open it as soon as possible for the other age groups," Paré said. 


Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda also responded to questions about the efficacy of cloth masks against the Omicron variant, which is believed to be even more transmissible than the Delta variant of the coronavirus. 

He said the Quebec Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) is working on its recommendation for face masks and he will receive it "soon," but in the meantime, he has seen different opinions on whether N95 masks should be worn by the general public. 

The head of Ontario's science table told the public to "ditch" their single-layer cloth masks amid concerns of higher aerosol spread of the Omicron variant. Experts say a close-fitting mask with no gaping holes provides more protection from the droplets containing the virus. 

“The minimum would be a double-layered cloth mask that has been washed before so that it is denser and filters better and really fits well," Dr. Peter Jüni said last week.

"Even better than that, a medical mask below and the cloth mask on top and then it depends on your [exposure]."

The INSPQ opinion will be shared with the public in the near future. Top Stories

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