Quebec is implementing new restrictions in shopping malls and stores to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus across the province amid an uptick in cases, hospitalizations and deaths linked to the pandemic.
Public Security Minister and Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault announced tighter measures Wednesday, citing the high number of COVID-19 cases and more shoppers out and about amid the holiday season.
“We have to respect the rules and ensure these places do not become places for transmission,” she said.
As of Friday, there will be a maximum number of clients permitted in shopping centres and stores, depending on their size. All stores must post clear signage about the limits as well.
Guilbault said many businesses already implement limits on the number of customers due to the pandemic, but not all do.
“We want to uniformize this,” she said.
Masks and physical distancing of two metres must also be enforced and respected in those businesses, Guilbault added.
Under the plan, Guilbault said work and safety visits will intensify in those places to ensure public health measures are being enforced. There will be a boost in police presence as well.
When asked if they had plans to close shopping centres and stores to contain COVID-19, Guilbault said the government doesn’t want to do that and that is why they are adding new rules.
“It’s a very important time for them,” she said.
Fines for those who do not comply with the measures range from $1,000 to $6,000.
Guilbault announced the plan shortly before health authorities released their latest numbers related to the pandemic. Quebec set a new high for coronavirus cases, with 1,514 new infections reported Wednesday. The province also recorded 43 additional deaths and a spike in hospitalizations.
The new measures were welcomed by the Retail Council of Canada, which said they were largely in line with its own recommendations to its retailers since the start of the pandemic.
“We understand that the government must give itself the tools to intervene with certain less collaborative retailers,” the council’s Quebec representative Marc Fortin said in a statement. “The health and safety of employees and consumers remain the priority of our retailers.”
The restrictions come as the province weighs whether it will allow Quebecers to see each other over the holidays later this month — after initially providing a plan for Christmas.
In November, the province had given the green light to two gatherings during a four-day period from Dec. 24 to 27, so long as people voluntarily quarantined the week before and after.
On Tuesday, Premier François Legault said he was concerned about the high number of new coronavirus cases and a rise in hospitalizations. He will make a final decision about Christmas gatherings on Dec. 11.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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