Québec residents will need to present their covid-19 vaccination passport to enter alcohol and cannabis stores. It is one of the new decisions of the provincial authorities to stop the infections. The omicron variant hits hard and the health system is reaching critical levels. Quebec is the Canadian province that has imposed the most severe measures in the pandemic. “If the unvaccinated are unhappy with this situation, they have a very simple solution: get vaccinated. It is free and it protects against the disease ”, expressed Christian Dubé, provincial minister of Health, in a press conference this Thursday. “If they don’t want to be vaccinated, then they should stay home,” he added.
The provision to enter establishments that sell alcohol and cannabis will take effect on January 18. However, individuals without a vaccination passport will have the possibility to continue acquiring them online. The state-owned Québec Cannabis Society and the Québec Alcohols Society have the only stores authorized to sell these products (except for beer and certain types of wine, available in supermarkets and convenience stores). Dubé also announced that the document proving the vaccination will only be valid after people have received a third injection, although the measure will take time to apply, since currently only those over 50 years of age can have access to this dose.
The authorities again imposed the curfew on December 31. Quebecers had already experienced the prohibition of going out at night between January 9 and May 28. So far, Quebec has been the only province in Canada to have implemented such a measure. “It is an extreme gesture because the situation is extreme,” said François Legault, Quebec’s prime minister, on December 30. The League of Rights and Freedoms of Quebec, an independent body founded in 1963, criticizes the decision on the grounds that it “violates freedom” and has “more negative than positive impacts.” Meetings in homes between members of two or more families are also prohibited. Schools, cinemas, bars and gyms closed their doors, as well as restaurants (except for take away food service).
The Québec government has stressed that the high rate of infections and the lack of a considerable number of health personnel, mainly due to the omicron variant, have left no other option. Some 20,000 health workers are absent from their duties. On December 28, Quebec was the first Canadian province to authorize both health personnel and other services considered essential (firefighters, policemen, among others) to return to their work despite testing positive in detection tests, as long as they do not have symptoms of the disease. That day, the province had 55% of the new infections recorded in Canada. This Thursday, it presented 30% throughout the country.
Christian Dubé indicated that 50% of hospitalization cases correspond to unvaccinated people (10% of the eligible population). The provincial Assembly enacted a law – last September – to prohibit demonstrations against vaccines and restrictions derived from the pandemic within 50 meters of schools and hospitals. Dubé said his government has in mind to apply the same measure for alcohol and cannabis stores in other non-essential establishments. The Québec Council for Retail Trade responded to the words of the Minister of Health asking that this provision not be established, as it would be “an additional burden” for companies already in difficulty and that have respected various directives.
The federal government continues to alert about the impacts of this new wave of covid-19. However, a large part of the decisions correspond to the provincial sphere. Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister, reacted on Wednesday to the statements of French President Emmanuel Macron, in which he said that he intends to “screw up the lives” of citizens who have not been vaccinated. Like Macron, Trudeau does not opt for compulsory vaccinations across the board, but noted that Canadians are “upset” and “frustrated” with these individuals. Ottawa has imposed forced vaccination only among federal workers and those of companies that operate under national regulations (banks, telecommunications, air transport, among others). Likewise, Trudeau has criticized travel abroad, although without actually prohibiting them.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.