'This is a big change': Quebec to lift COVID-19 restrictions for restaurants, home gatherings, bars
The Quebec government has announced a plan for getting out of the current lockdown and for how to "learn to live with COVID" over the longer term. It intends to lift nearly all public health restrictions by mid-March.
Premier François Legault said several measures will be lifted as early as Saturday, including those imposed on restaurants and private home gatherings.
Mask-wearing requirements and the vaccine passport, however, will remain in effect where they are already required because those are measures "that allow us to currently reopen," Legault said during a news conference on Tuesday.
Hospitalizations have dropped from 3,400 to 2,400 in the past three weeks, he said, which was one of the key factors in moving ahead with a relaxing of the measures.
“We will need to learn to live with the virus. There may be a sixth wave eventually, but we will have to live with COVID," Legault said.
MEASURES BEING LIFTED IN QUEBEC
- No limit for private gatherings, though the recommendation is to keep it at 10 people or people from three households
- Restaurants can seat up to 10 people or people from three different addresses per table
- All caregivers can visit a loved one in a group home with a vaccine passport
Feb. 14 (previously announced):
- Gyms and spas can reopen at 50 per cent capacity
- Indoor sports and recreation activities, as well as games, can resume for everyone, including college and university sports (change rooms are limited to 50 per cent capacity)
- Competitions and tournaments remain prohibited
- Indoor golf facilities and climbing gyms can open at 50 per cent capacity
- Outdoor shows can host up to 5,000 people
- All stores will be allowed to open at 100 per cent capacity
- Places of worship can accommodate up to 500 people, up from the maximum of 250
- Amphitheatres can operate at 50 per cent capacity
- Theatres and showrooms will be allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity, including the Bell Centre and the Videotron Centre
- Reopening of recreation centres, such as arcades, water parks, amusement parks, at 50 per cent capacity
- Conventions and assemblies can resume at half capacity or max. of 500 people
- Social events in a rented room can accommodate up to 50 people with a vaccine passport
- Wakes or viewings of ashes of a loved can allow a maximum of 50 people at a time
- Teleworking will no longer be mandatory, but is still recommended
- Restaurants must close by 1 a.m. and respect last call for alcohol at midnight
- Bars, pool halls and casinos can open with 50 per cent capacity, but with no dancing and karaoke and they must close by 1 a.m. and respect last call for alcohol at midnight (everyone must be seated)
- Places of worship and showrooms can open at 100 per cent capacity
- Sports competitions and tournaments will be allowed with no participant limits
- Theatres, cinemas, and some sports venues can operate at full capacity (except for venues with more than 10,000 people)
- Bars can allow dancing and karaoke at 100 per cent capacity
- Restaurants, showrooms, and large venues, such as the Bell Centre and Videotron Centre, can reopen at full capacity
- "Activities in a social nature" in a rented room can resume normally without capacity limits as long as everyone has a vaccine passport or a maximum of 20 people without the vaccine passport
- Places of worship, funerals, wakes, weddings: 100 per cent capacity or a maximum of 50 people at a time without a vaccine passport
- Large venues and arenas with more than 10,000 people can operate at full capacity
‘A CALCULATED RISK’
When asked if the announcement on Tuesday had anything to do with the ongoing trucker convoys in Ottawa and Quebec City, the premier flatly denied the suggestion, saying the plan to reopen has been in the works with public health for the past few weeks.
The step to remove COVID-19 restrictions had the blessing of Quebec’s public health department, the premier said, as officials believe the province’s plan forward is based on a “calculated risk” in living with the virus.
"I just want to tell Quebecers that I understand that you're fed up with these restrictions. But at the same time, I think it's important that we remember why we have put in place these measures," Legault said.
"Essentially, we have a health-care network that was fragile before the pandemic," he said, adding that before, the “risk was too great” to open up too quickly.
“If we lifted too many measures, the hospitals would be overwhelmed and we wouldn't be able to treat people. So that's the dilemma that we had."
Provinces are now grappling with their own paths forward as the Omicron wave of the pandemic continues to subside from a January peak.
Hours before Legault’s news conference, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced the proof of vaccination policy in that province will be eliminated at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 14, but that masking will remain in effect until the end of February.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé echoed the premier by justifying the masking and vaccine passport requirements, saying they were catalysts in the reopening plan. Those two measures, Dubé said, will stay in place “at least until mid-March.”
MONTREAL EASING RESTRICTIONS
The City of Montreal will gradually reopen certain facilities as measures are lifted.
- Theatres are now open at half capacity and proof of vaccination is required
- The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium is opened at half capacity with a maximum of 500 visitors, and with vaccination passports required
- Up to 1,000 people per site are allowed at all outdoor events, including festivals
- Indoor activities at libraries, cultural centres, community centres and similar venues, including for those under 18 years old, are resumed with a 25-person maximum
- A maximum of 500 spectators is allowed at indoor sporting events. Venues can operate at 50 per cent capacity and spectators must remain seated
- Outdoor facilities can admit 1,000 spectators
NO MORE DECREES: PQ
After almost two years of the pandemic, the opposition Parti Quebecois said its patience and collaboration with the Legault government had reached its limits.
There will be no more "carte blanche" for the CAQ, said PQ leader Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon before the Legault news conference on Tuesday.
No new health measures will be accepted without a proper debate in the National Assembly, he said, and there is also no question of accepting the extension of health emergency decrees until the election campaign next fall.
Plamondon said citizens have consented to many restrictions because they were intended to be exceptional and temporary, but the government seems to want to extend them into permanent measures.
Premier Legault said his government is already working on tabling a bill in March "to create a framework for the need to have exceptional rules," including the state of emergency.
Plamondon said in an interview with The Canadian Press that the lack of debate has ultimately damaged public confidence and fuelled opposition movements such as the trucker 'freedom convoy' that took place last weekend in Quebec City.
--With files from The Canadian Press