Last night, Prime Minister François Legault held a press conference announcing an easing of several restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic – but the reopening of Montreal restaurants is still not on the table, at least for now .
Starting February 8, non-essential stores, malls, hair salons, libraries and museums across the province will be allowed to reopen. In six regions of Quebec where COVID-19 alerts have changed from red to orange (Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Bas Saint-Laurent, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Saguenay-Lac-Staint-Jean, Côte-Nord and Nord -du-Québec), restaurant dining rooms will also be allowed to reopen, which, according to Legault, is part of a “calculated risk”.
Giving Montreal restaurateurs a glimpse of what the reopening conditions might look like once it is their turn, Legault clarified that restaurants in the Orange Zones will be required to keep a register of customers for the purposes of tracing contacts in the event of a epidemic. The guests will have to make reservations in advance, proving that they reside in the region and do not come from another place in Quebec where the situation is more serious. Once in the restaurant, tables – two meters apart – will be limited to two adults, from the same household or not, plus children under 18.
While the orange zones now represent large swathes of Quebec’s geography, with no major urban centers like Montreal or Quebec, they actually only encompass about 10 percent of the province’s population, the minister said. Public health Christian Dubé. “This means that 90 percent of the population is still in the red zones,” he said.
Montreal restaurants, whose dining rooms have been closed since October 1, 2020, will have to wait at least February 22 for a possible reassessment of these conditions. However, Legault warned throughout the press conference that “the battle against the virus is not over”.
In the red zones, restaurants must continue to deal only with take-out and delivery; the first until 7:30 p.m., respecting the curfew, and the second at all times. Delivery drivers must be provided with official documents proving that they are among the workers considered sufficiently “essential” to work after hours.
However, according to this Global News Report, that’s not always necessarily enough, with some food delivery workers claiming police focus more on their targeting than outliers that don’t have a legitimate reason to be on the outside. In some cases, stops have led to car inspections despite workers carrying the proper documentation, and according to an UberEats driver cited in the article, a police response can take around 15 minutes, which will undoubtedly leave the ramen sitting in the passenger seat lukewarm.
Despite the easing of restrictions in some regions, for the foreseeable future, all of Quebec will continue to live under a curfew, which Legault attributes to the drop in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations documented over the past three weeks.