On January 6, 2021, in Montreal, Premier François Legault, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, and the National Director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, announced new lockdown measures at a press briefing, including, for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, a curfew.
As a reminder, Quebec was already subject to "holiday break" restrictions until January 11 (see our previous article on this subject). These new measures, which the premier has described as a necessary "shock treatment" given the current state of affairs, will be in addition to the current measures and will be in effect from Saturday, January 9 up to and including Monday, February 8, 2021 and will apply throughout Quebec, except for Terres-Cries-de-la-Baie-James and Nunavik.
This article summarizes the main measures announced based on currently available information. Please note that at the time of writing, the ministerial order(s) providing for the health measures detailed below have not yet been published in the Gazette officielle du Québec. The scope of the measures announced below could therefore be modified by details or exceptions. We invite you to contact our team if you have specific questions.
Curfews, Permitted Visits and Teleworking
- Curfew: Taking into consideration that the majority of new COVID-19 cases originate from gatherings in homes, the premier has announced a curfew from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. the next morning.
- Everyone will be required to remain in their homes during this curfew, with very specific exceptions, e.g., to go to work for a priority activity. The list of curfew exceptions is discussed below.
- The government has instructed various police forces to enforce the curfew and to issue tickets to those who do not comply with the curfew. Tickets can range from $1,000 to $6,000.
- The establishment of roadblocks to prevent travel between regions is not being considered at this stage, as the focus is on enforcing the curfew.
- Clarification on January 7, 2020: During a press briefing held on January 7, the Deputy Premier of Québec and Minister of Public Security Geneviève Guilbault added certain clarifications regarding the application of the curfew :
- Some very limited exceptions to the curfew have been announced.
- It will be up to anyone who is away from home to demonstrate to police that they have a good reason for not being home during curfew.
- In order to facilitate the enforcement of curfew by the police and to allow people to continue to work, an employee may request a document issued by his or her employer certifying that they either provide an essential service or that they are travelling to or from work. In fact, a model attestation is now available on the official website of the Government of Québec (in French only).
- It is important to note that a curfew must not prevent anyone from leaving a violent or unhealthy living environment or one that puts his or her life or that of his or her children in danger.
- It is still possible to be outside on one's private property during curfew hours.
- Permitted visits: The premier has stated that a single individual may still visit another single individual at his or her home, but it is recommended both wear a mask and stay two metres apart. He also added that seeing friends outdoors is not permitted.
- Mandatory teleworking for office workers: The announced mandatory teleworking for the "holiday break" will continue to be mandatory for all office employees, with the exception of workers whose presence is deemed necessary by the employer to carry on the business of the organization, whether public or private.
Other Measures for Businesses
- Nonessential businesses: The closure of nonessential businesses currently in effect during the "holiday break" is extended to February 8. However, to facilitate business further, curbside pick-up will now be permitted.
- Essential businesses: Essential businesses, such as grocery and convenience stores, will be allowed to remain open until 7:30 p.m. to give employees and customers enough time to return home by the curfew time of 8:00 p.m. As an exception, pharmacies and convenience stores with gas stations will be allowed to remain open beyond the advertised curfew time.
- Restaurants: Measures for restaurant operators still apply; restaurants will be required to remain closed. That said, delivery is still permitted, even after the announced curfew time.
- Training rooms, theatres, museums and cinemas: Training rooms, theatres, museums and cinemas will be closed until February 8.
Measures for the Manufacturing and Construction Sectors
- The premier reminded the population that last spring, Quebec was one of the only Canadian provinces to have closed of the manufacturing and construction sectors, subject to a list of exceptions.
- Unlike this spring, the manufacturing and construction sectors will not be closed. Instead, the premier has asked companies to postpone the production of any goods that are not considered "essential."
- As of the date of writing, the government's official website mentions "minimizing activity" and "adjusting shifts" to limit the staff present at any one time on production and construction sites. In light of the decrees that will be published, it remains to be seen what legal form this request for reduced activities will take.
Measures for Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Education
- Preschool and elementary school students: Preschool and elementary schools will welcome students on Monday, January 11, as scheduled. However, additional health measures will apply to primary schools:
- All elementary school students will be required to wear a face cover in the hallways.
- In addition, grade 5 and 6 students will now also be required to wear a face cover in class.
- Secondary students: Secondary students will now have to attend their classes virtually for an additional week, since the return to class has been delayed until Monday, January 18. Procedural masks (also known as surgical masks) will be mandatory, and the government will provide two per day.
- Aerosols and other measures: The premier also announced that issues related to the airborne spread of COVID-19 in schools will be addressed by the minister of education at a news conference scheduled for Friday, January 8. Also to be discussed at the news conference will be issues related to tutoring for certain students, school reorganization and support measures for children with mental health problems.
- Municipal libraries: Municipal libraries are open to allow students to study and to connect to a high-speed internet network while respecting health measures.
Measures for Daycare centres
- The premier has announced that no changes will affect childcare centres, which can remain open and accessible to those with a reserved spot for their children.
- As of the date of writing, the official government website states that all childcare centres can receive 100 per cent of the maximum number of children allowed, as indicated on their permit. Early learning and childcare services will only be closed if an outbreak is declared by public health.
Measures for Places of Worship
- Gatherings in places of worship, which were previously permitted with a maximum capacity of 25 people, will now be prohibited. As an exception, only gatherings for funerals will be permitted with a maximum of 10 people.
Measures for Indoor and Outdoor Recreational and Sports Activities
- Individual outdoor activities: The premier has stated that individual outdoor activities will continue to be permitted. For example, walking individually, skating individually or even skiing individually will be permitted, but these activities must be done alone or with people from a single family bubble.
- Group outdoor activities: Unlike the current situation, which allows outdoor activities for a maximum of eight people plus a coach or instructor, the premier has stated that outdoor activities will be limited to people from a single family bubble. He also indicated that group ski lessons would no longer be permitted.
- Indoor sports activities: According to the official government website at the time of writing, indoor sports activities will be prohibited, with the exception of physical education classes and special programs in school settings, the training of identified athletes and professional sports teams that have received authorization from public health, such as the Montreal Canadiens.
Measures for Film and Television Production
- The premier has stated that the filming of movies and television series can continue. According to the premier, continuing these activities for movies and television is important and will provide entertainment for Quebecers during this lockdown period.
Update of Alert Levels
- As a reminder, all regions of Quebec were at the red alert level, except Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Nunavik and Côte-Nord, which were at the orange alert level.
- As of Saturday, January 9, the alert level for all regions of Quebec is now red, except Terres-Cries-de-la-Baie-James and Nunavik, which are orange.
The main measures summarized above are not exhaustive. We note that the government, at the press briefing, generally suggested that the "holiday break" measures that are not modified by the new announcements would remain in place, and that further details would be available in the coming days.
The curve of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as the evolution of immunization by February 8 (as outlined by Minister Dubé at the media briefing), will serve as key benchmarks that the government will monitor on a daily basis to adjust measures as the situation progresses. The report on aerosols in schools, when it becomes available, could also have an impact on health recommendations in businesses.
A significant impact is therefore expected on businesses during this period, which is not only an extension of the "holiday break" measures but also brings about a new set of more restrictive measures. As outlined above, such measures include a curfew requiring employees who must travel to and from work between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. to provide justification upon request, as well as increased police intervention and the issuing of offence reports and fines for non-compliance with the measures.
Should you have any additional questions about the nature of these measures and their impact on your business, please do not hesitate to contact our team.