Health & Safety
Quebec allows restaurant dining rooms to reopen, permits gatherings inside homes
By Sidhartha Banerjee/The Canadian Press
By Sidhartha Banerjee/The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Restaurants in Quebec will be able to open up dining rooms beginning next week after being shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, government and health officials announced Monday.
The province also announced that indoor gatherings of up to 10 people from three families will be permitted.
Restaurants in most of the province will be permitted to open June 15, but those in the greater Montreal region and the towns of Joliette and L’Epiphanie will have to wait until June 22.
Agriculture Minister Andre Lamontagne and Labour Minister Jean Boulet said several health rules and safety measures will apply, including physical distancing between diners, frequent disinfection and safety measures for staff.
Indoor gatherings will be allowed under the same conditions as outdoor ones that were permitted several weeks ago and on the same schedule as dining rooms opening, with distancing paramount between member of different households.
Dr. Richard Masse of the public health department said hosts are asked to keep notes and be sure those attending gatherings can be quickly tracked in case of a COVID-19 case.
He acknowledged that not everyone will be able to accommodate that many people indoors and maintain physical distancing.
“Certainly, someone who has a small apartment will not be able to accommodate 10 people, but perhaps they didn’t do it before either,” Masse said.
The province said it isn’t ready to allow the opening of bars yet.
“We know that when you go in bars late at night and you go on drinking and dancing … the behaviours change, and the risks could be quite significant,” Masse said.
Restaurant experience changing
The rules for restaurants will include staff keeping a two-metre distance and wearing masks and protective eyewear when that isn’t possible.
The province is also suggesting that menus be posted on screens. While capacity will be left to individual restaurants to determine, physical distancing rules will apply and tables will have to be disinfected between patrons.
Buffets will no longer be self-serve, and food courts will also need to have distancing. The province is also encouraging more patios to help spread out patrons. Boulet said 1,000 inspectors will be deployed to ensure rules are being followed.
After a lockdown of nearly three months, Lamontagne said it was important for restaurants to welcome diners, noting the market represents annual sales of $14 billion and employs 240,000 people.
To avoid having to shutter everything a second time, Masse said people will have to get used to the new reality.
“There is a new normal, and we have to integrate it in all aspects of our daily life and behaviours,” Masse said.
The number of new COVID-19 cases stayed below 200 Monday as the province registered six additional deaths. Health authorities say 198 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the provincial total to 53,047.
A total of 4,984 people have died of COVID-19 in Quebec since the pandemic began.
Quebec’s number of new cases has been trending downward, with less than 300 new positive tests a day for the past week. Hospitalizations crept upward by seven to 979, while the number of people in intensive care declined by seven.
The province and the federal government on Monday announced $50 million in new aid for small and medium-sized businesses in the hard-hit city.
The aid was confirmed Monday by federal Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, provincial Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon and Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante.
The money, which is mainly aimed at downtown businesses, will be distributed in the form of low-interest loans of up to $40,000 as well as grants.
Some $30 million of the money will come from the federal government through its COVID-19 regional relief fund, while Quebec will add $20 million to its fund for Montreal, which now sits at $60 million.
In addition to retail stores, restaurants and the cultural sector will also be eligible for the program.