Leaked document offers portrait of Quebec's orange, red alert restrictions

A leaked internal government document offers a glimpse of what life might look like in a region of Quebec designated red under the COVID-19 alert system: picture the lockdown period in the spring.

Health minister confirms authenticity but plays down accuracy of material

People wear face masks as they attend a cooking class at a market in Montreal. The Quebec government has introduced fines for individuals caught not wearing face masks or coverings in indoor public spaces. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

A leaked internal government document offers a glimpse of what life might look like in a region of Quebec designated red under the COVID-19 alert system: a lot like during the lockdown period in the spring.

The document, published on social media by Montrealer Patrick Déry, describes a red alert status with private gatherings banned, sports and recreational activities shut down and many businesses forced to close or reduce operations.

It provides thresholds for various public health data that might lead to changes to a region's alert level, and gives risk ratings for various activities in each of the four alert states.

Preschool, primary and secondary schools are all rated at a medium level of risk, although education is mentioned only fleetingly in the document.

In a statement issued in response to the document's publication, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé confirmed its authenticity but played down its accuracy.

Dubé called the document a "working document" that was "several weeks old" and not the final version of the system used to choose alert levels. However, one page of the document describes it as being used for a webinar on Monday, Sept. 14.

"Different scenarios are constantly being studied so that decisions can be made according to the evolution of the situation," Dubé said in the statement. "When decisions are made, we always explain them in a very transparent way."

Information in the document about orange-level restrictions — specifically reducing private gatherings to a maximum of six people and closing bars, casinos and the indoor dining rooms of restaurants — align closely with a summary Dubé gave at a news conference Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Quebec's public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said it was "clear some areas will be in orange soon." Eight regions are currently at the yellow, or early warning, level.

When he announced the alert system, Dubé said it would depend on three factors: the epidemiological situation, the rate of transmission and the capacity of the region's health-care system.

The leaked document hints at the specific thresholds for those factors.

The epidemiological situation considers test positivity and cases per million inhabitants, and also whether those indicators have been increasing for seven days. The thresholds for cases per million are 20 for yellow, 60 for orange and 100 for red alert level.

According to government data, the Lower Saint-Lawrence region's seven-day average was 75 cases per million as of Monday — but there are other factors involved.

The document's description of orange-level restrictions also includes:

  • Reducing public gatherings to a maximum of 50 people.
  • Discouraging travel between regions.
  • Requiring face coverings at all times in theatres and outdoor markets.
  • Closing gyms and spas.
  • Banning sporting events and competitions as well as sporting activities that involve frequent contact.

According to the document, the red alert level would see private gatherings between people from different households banned altogether and further restrictions to public gatherings. Other restrictions at the red alert tier include:

  • Limiting professional and health-care services in private clinics to those deemed urgent or semi-urgent.
  • Restricting restaurants to takeout and delivery only.
  • Banning sports with infrequent contact, as well as all indoor exercise (e.g., yoga or dance classes).
  • Banning cruises and indoor tourist attractions.
  • Closing tourist lodging, with some exceptions.
  • Closing salons and other personal care venues.


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