Quebec Premier Francois Legault was true to his promise when he said the 10 p.m. curfew instituted across the province on December 31 would be the first pandemic restriction to fall by the wayside as the province attempts to return to some level of normalcy, removing the unpopular edict that locked most Quebecers in their homes after 10 p.m.
"This is good news,'' the premier said in his Twitter announcement that officially touted the curfew's end, as COVID-19 cases continued to take up hospital bed and patients continue to lose their lives to the virus.
In his latest round of edicts, all designed to help control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Legault eased other restrictions - including the government-mandated Sunday closures of retail businesses (except for pharmacies, convenience stores and gas stations) - while taking aim at the unvaccinated portion of the population.
Starting earlier this week, the vaccine passport was required for entry into any SAQ or SQDC location, and starting next Monday, the vaccine passport will be required for entry into retail establishments, including big-box stores and grocery stores, with surface areas of 1,500 square metres (16,146 sq. ft.) and more.
As convenience stores are of a smaller footprint, they will not be required to ask for vaccine passports. The new rules could, in fact, be a sales boost for c-store operators, particularly those selling beer and wine. As well, the ending of the curfew means that convenience stores can once again stay open late to be a destination for late-night snacking, as well as the sale of alcohol.
"So, the best example is a Costco will have to ask for the vaccine passport; a Walmart will have to require the vaccine passport,'' Health Minister Christian Dube said.
Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec's interim public health director, said the projections saying the fifth wave has peaked is "not a certainty, so we have to wait to confirm it.''
But the dramatic uptick in ICU patients and other COVID-19 hospitalizations has slowed, Boileau indicated.
Legault said the newest measures are a way to encourage reticent Quebecers to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"I'm not here to win a popularity contest,'' he said. "I'm here to try to protect Quebecers and to put in place the best measures taking into consideration science and what public health is telling us.''
Indoor private gatherings across the province are still banned, and gyms, cinemas, bars and other entertainment venues are closed, while restaurants (as well as c-stores will foodservice) are still limited to take-out dining or delivery.
- with files from Convenience Store News Canada