It was written in the sky. For the second year in a row, the resurgence of the COVID-19 epidemic is forcing François Legault to back down on the reductions announced for Christmas and to tighten several measures.
New Year's Eve will finally be limited to 10 people instead of 20 and from Monday onward, the capacity in bars, restaurants, theaters, and amphitheaters will be cut in half.
After having "rewarded" Quebecers last week by announcing gatherings of 20 people as of December 23rd, it's back to square one, with a maximum of 10 guests able to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Day.
Being that the vaccine is no longer sufficient to fight the new variant, the Premier asked all Quebecers to reduce their contacts by 50%.
Even if the unvaccinated are more likely to contract the virus and end up in the hospital, adequately vaccinated people are also at risk, said Mr. Legault, during a press briefing held exceptionally on the 6 p.m. Thursday evening.
The administration of the 3rd dose, therefore, becomes “the priority” of the government. As soon as the vaccination capacity is available, people aged 60 and over will be able to take advantage of it.
In January, the offer will be extended to the general population, in the same order as last spring.
No Christmas mass without a vaccine
That's not all. To go to Christmas mass this year, you will now have to show your vaccination passport.
The number of worshipers allowed in churches and places of worship will also be halved, with a maximum of 250 people who must all be adequately vaccinated.
Karaoke and dancing, which were allowed again for a month, are making a return to the list of prohibited activities. The same goes for office parties: very bad news for many restaurant owners, who have already seen more cancellations in the last 48 hours.
No spectators at the Bell Center
As for outdoor activities and sports, no changes are being made at this time, but due to a few outbreaks, all tournaments will have to be canceled as of Monday.
The situation is so critical because of the Omicron variant that Montreal public health has asked the organization of the Canadiens to hold their game scheduled for Thursday evening at the Bell Center without any spectators.
Return of the mask at school
The Legault government, which has juggled with the possibility of ringing the end of classes tomorrow, finally decided to leave them open until the holiday break, but only by bringing back the compulsory wearing of masks for all who attend.
The return in January will be on the dates scheduled for elementary school, but for secondary school, the re-entry will take place on January 10, even in schools that had planned to reopen a little earlier.
What is forcing the government to review its plans is, in particular, the increase in hospitalizations on the horizon. Thursday, in a provisional report published online, the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS) underlines that the number of new cases is sharply increasing (+ 42%) compared to the previous week (11 683 versus 8,225).
Their projections suggest "a marked increase in the number of daily hospitalizations over the coming weeks and consequently in the occupancy rate of regular and intensive care beds".
The latest report in Quebec shows a marked increase in the number of COVID-19 infections. Thursday, 2736 cases and 5 deaths were reported, and the day before 2386 infections and four deaths.
- With the collaboration of Geneviève Lajoie, Parliamentary Office and Vincent Larin, QMI Agency