Quebec will be allowing more spectators to attend Montreal Canadiens home games at the Bell Centre even as public health experts warn the province should exercise more caution.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday evening.
A maximum of 3,500 people will be allowed to attend home games, up from 2,500.
The new measure comes into effect Thursday and applies to festivals and other cultural happenings, both indoors and outdoors.
Dubé said the change was made to allow for more spectators because the epidemiological situation allows for it.
“It’s great news for the cultural sector and for Canadiens’ fans,” he wrote on Twitter.
Public health experts, however, say the province should wait until more people have received a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine before increasing the number of fans allowed to attend Canadiens’ games.
Roxane Borges Da Silva, a public health professor at the Université de Montréal, says that people who are vaccinated with two doses of vaccine are at low risk of spreading the novel coronavirus and that rapid tests could also be used to help prevent infections from spreading at the arena.
But she says that increasing capacity at a time when 14 per cent of Quebec’s population has received two doses, increases the risk that someone who is infected with a variant of concern could spread it to other fans, particularly in tighter spaces like washrooms or on escalators.
Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer of economics at Concordia University in Montreal, says that allowing more fans would help the team’s bottom line, as National Hockey League teams are more dependent on ticket revenue than other major sports leagues.
Lander, who specializes in sports economics, says fans do make a difference for the home team, but he worries that making an exception for a sports team could send the wrong message to the public.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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