Quebec government announces loosing of COVID-related restrictions

COVID-related restrictions

This past Tuesday, the Quebec government announced the loosening of a number of restrictions that were imposed due to the rising cases of the Omnicron variant of COVID-19, which means good news for restaurants, theatres and cinemas across the province

At the news conference held by Premier Francois Legault to outline the plan, he announced that restaurants will once again be allowed to reopen as of Monday, January 31, but at half capacity. As well, up to four people from four different addresses — or a maximum of two family bubbles — will be allowed to share a table. However, restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and will have to close at midnight.

Municipal venues such as the Botanical Gardens, the Biodôme, the Planetarium as well as cafeterias in ski chalets will also be allowed to reopen at 50 per cent capacity on January 31. They all require a vaccination passport for access.

Indoor private gatherings will also be subject to these same numbers, which will also be allowed effective January 31. Premier Legault added that these restriction relaxations were as a result of hospitalizations in the province that were slowly decreasing, and there are reasons to believe they will continue to do so in the coming days.

Other restriction relaxations that commence on January 31 include all extracurricular sports, which will be permitted in elementary schools, high schools, CEGEPs and universities. Participants over the age of 13 will have to show their vaccine passport.

In regards to organized sports that are held outside of school, they will be allowed only for Quebecers under the age of 18, with a maximum of 25 participants allowed. Practices will be permitted but competitive matches are still on hold. High school sports teams will be allowed to train again.

Effective Monday, February 7, cinemas and theatres will also be allowed to reopen, though also at half capacity, with a maximum of 500 people per room.

Places of worship are also allowed to reopen on that day, but with a few exceptions. They must be at half capacity, with a maximum of 250 people. Vaccination passports will also be required for entry.

A maximum of 50 people will be allowed for funerals, though the proof of vaccination will not be mandatory for “humanitarian reasons,” according to the premier.

Gyms and bars will still have to wait. No reopening date for them has been suggested, with officials saying the situation in the province’s hospitals is still too critical. Bars in the province have been closed since Dec. 20, leading some to consider reopening in defiance of public health mandates. 

However, there are some members in the medical community who are skeptical about the province’s plan to ease restrictions. One of them is Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist and medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre.

“It’s hard to know. Right now, we haven’t achieved a peak. We are at a plateau,” Dr. Vinh told CBC News. He also said that he is worried new hospital admissions could outpace the number of COVID-19 patients being discharged, further straining the health network. He added that the province would need to show data to prove to Quebecers that it is indeed safe to ease restrictions, given that there are about 3,300 people who are currently hospitalized.  

At that same press conference, Health Minister Christian Dubé said the newest projections — that have not yet been shared publicly  — will show that the number of people in hospital could drop to about 2,500 over the next two weeks.

The Quebec government also did not provide a timeline for when the vaccine passport will be expanded to require three doses. The passport is currently required to access non-essential services such as restaurants and cinemas, in addition to larger retailers and the province’s government-run liquor store, the SAQ. It is not required for grocery stores or pharmacies.

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