Quebec announced new COVID-19 regulations limiting the number of people permitted at gatherings in private homes.
Starting on Dec. 26, gathering in homes will be not be allowed to exceed six people or two family bubbles.
Under current coronavirus guidelines, restaurants are limited to 50% capacity and are required to close by 10 P.M. Starting the day after Christmas, they will have to limit tables to six people or two families.
The province also requires anyone over the age of 10 to wear a face mask in all indoor public places, including while using public transportation.
The province’s premier Francois Legault cited the “exponential” increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks in his announcement of the new rule. He said there have been 9,000 new cases since Wednesday.
“We will not hesitate in the next few days, if it is necessary, to add other measures,” Legault said.
Expectations are granted for the limitation in the cases of weddings and funerals. At those events, up to 25 people are permitted to gather.
“Earlier this week, the French-speaking Canadian province abruptly closed bars, gyms and schools and warned that further restrictions could be coming while awaiting projections on the spread of the virus and its impact on hospitalizations,” per AP News.
In addition to shuttering non-essential indoor activities, the government suspended all non-essential public activities, like conventions, conferences and seminars. Sporting events can be held but spectators are prohibited.
Less than 10% of Quebec’s adult population is unvaccinated, but health authorities say they represent half of all COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“So it’s very serious and regardless of the reason why you don’t want to be vaccinated, I am asking you, if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for others,” the premier said in his statement. “Stay home because there’s a risk or greater risk that you will end up in the hospital sheet that day and that you will overwhelm our hospitals and perhaps stop some people from getting urgent care.”
Legault has reserved booster shots of the vaccine for those over the age of 60 even while other provinces in Canada have allowed anyone over the age of 18 to get a third dose. The premier has said this strategy, which being with a roll-out on Dec. 27, is “the best way forward” as Quebec’s over 60 population “represent about 70 percent of hospitalizations.”
“So if I have the choice between [giving a booster to] somebody of 18 years old and somebody of 65 years old, I prefer to go first with 65,” Legault said.
The demand for PCR testing has strained the health care system in Quebec and Montreal.
“In Montreal, residents have been waiting for hours in the cold to get tested, particularly in walk-in sites that offer testing,” reports CTV News. “In some centres, the waiting period for an appointment to get tested extends into January 2022.”
Travel into and throughout Canada has been severely restricted in an effort to stave off a surge in the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
“The Government of Canada is asking everyone to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada, regardless of your vaccination status,” reports MTL. “As of December 21, 2021, all Canadians returning from short trips (72 hours or less) must take a molecular pre-entry COVID-19 test.”
Vaccinated travelers who enter the country are required to self-isolate until they produce a negative PCR test.