Critics are calling the move too little, too late, but the Quebec government is looking to stem a spike in COVID-19 cases by requiring proof of vaccination for anyone entering the province’s state-run alcohol and cannabis stores.
CTV News reported that the vaccine restrictions may soon apply at all Société des alcools du Québec and Société québécoise du cannabis locations. The cannabis stores sell recreational, but not medicinal, herb, and are the only option for local cannabis customers given the government’s monopoly on adult-use sales. Vaccine passports for anyone 13 years and older have been required for entry into all non-essential Quebec businesses since September.
The province, like nearly the rest of the world, is dealing with dramatically spiking COVID-19 infections. In December, shortly after Montreal's mayor, Valérie Plante, tested positive for the virus, Quebec's government declared a state of emergency due to the accelerating pandemic. The province's most recent data shows over 14,000 new COVID cases and 39 deaths — the latter figure higher than any fatality count the province has experienced since January 2021.
Quebec is also facing dire shortages of rapid COVID-19 tests. Quebec officials recently announced that PCR tests would no longer be available to individuals except those in high-risk environments like homeless shelters, nursing homes, and hospitals. That’s a big issue, as employees must show a positive PCR test to file a sick-leave claim. As in the US, Quebec has shortened suggested quarantine time to five days after symptoms manifest.
"We are absolutely overwhelmed by the Omicron wave,” said Marie-France Raynault, a medical doctor who serves as a strategic advisor to the provincial health department.
Still, some are dubious over the latest weed-and-booze-oriented measure proposed by the government (which, let’s be clear, is still just a proposal at this point).
"It's analogous to trying to put out a raging forest fire with a glass of water," Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist, told CTV News. "Unless the government has access to public health data that there have been a massive number of transmissions linked to SAQs or SQDCs, which I doubt, adding a measure like that now would not be expected to have any more than a minor impact.”
Oughton added that the government had prior warning of the coming Omicron wave since early December and dragged on instituting restrictions that could have saved lives.
The province is, however, under a 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. curfew — excepting dog owners walking their furry friends, who raised hell when no exception for their canines was originally provided. Businesses like bars, casinos, and dine-in restaurants are closed, and only essential businesses are allowed to open on Sundays. Residents are not allowed to participate in indoor gatherings with people outside the members of their own household.
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