Quebecers will soon have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) and Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) stores.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé made the announcement Thursday during an update on the epidemiological situation in the province, alongside vaccination campaign director Daniel Paré and associate deputy health minister Lucie Opatrny.

"I hope this will be an additional incentive for some to go get their first dose," he said, noting the new measure will come into effect on Jan. 18. "The vaccination passport will be extended to certain non-essential commerces in the coming weeks and we'll come back with a list after we have talked to the industries."

Dubé had strong words for anyone who is not adequately vaccinated, saying additional measures will follow. Though the unvaccinated make up only about 10 per cent of the population, they represent half of people in the intensive care unit, he said.

"Let me be very clear, if they can't protect themselves, we will protect them against themselves," he said. "And we will make sure that they understand very clearly that if they don't want to be vaccinated, they just stay home."

The new rule comes as Dubé estimates at least 20,000 health care workers are currently sick with COVID 19 -- in addition to thousands more who are seeking treatment for burnout.

"We have an augmentation of the number of sick people in hospitals," he noted. "And we are losing more people every day. It's the worst combination we can have." 

New projections by the Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) suggest that hospitalizations will rise dramatically in Quebec within the next two weeks, with a potential to see 3,000 people hospitalized and 400 patients in intensive care.

"Do you think we can fake this sickness?" he asked. "If some people still believe that this doesn't exist, they're the problem. We're there to protect the population."

The province is now documenting a positivity rate of 31.2 per cent and Dubé notes it's too early to say whether "drastic measures" like the 10 p.m. curfew are curbing the number of cases.

"We know cases are underestimated right now," he said. "If you won't get vaccinated, stay home."

The opposition Liberal Party says it would also have closed off the SAQ and SQDC to unvaccinated Quebecers, but slammed the government for the severity of the situation.

“We don’t have enough rapid tests and there was no strategy implemented by the government,” said Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade.

Premier François Legault and National Public Health Director Horacio Arruda were not in attendance at the press conference.

Thursday, COVID-19-related deaths in Quebec spiked by 26 as documented cases rose by 15,874.