Montreal

Limits on store capacity lifted and distancing rules loosened in Quebec

Starting Monday, the province will loosen public health measures once again, halving the required two metres of distance, both indoors and outside, and do away with capacity limits in stores.

As of today, Quebecers only have to stand 1 metre apart from each other

Face masks will still be a thing indoors, but people can reduce the distance between them to one metre. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

When strolling through a park in Montreal these days or shopping in a crowded store, it's easy to forget people are still supposed to be two metres apart under Quebec's current public regulations.

But that changed Monday as the provincial government halved the required two metres of distance, both indoors and outside, and did away with capacity limits in stores.

"With the onset of summer, with the drop in the number of cases that can be observed now, I think if there is a time that we can reduce distancing, it is now," Quebec's public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said last week.

He said the increased vaccination rates also played a role in the decision.

"We are fully aware that the two metres is not natural. Most people don't necessarily respect two metres," said Arruda.

In stores, there are no longer be limits on how many shoppers can be perusing the goods at one time but the province says retailers must ensure people are maintaining one metre of distance if they don't live at the same address.

It's not just store owners who have to watch for physical distancing. In entertainment venues as well and as those places where singing and intense exercise is done, people are still required to maintain two metres distance.

For places that receive audiences with fixed seating, there will have to be an empty seat between people who do not live at the same address. So still no bumping elbows with strangers at the movie theatre.

People will still have to mask up and keep a metre of distance from other shoppers, but there will be no more limits on how many customers can be inside stores at once in Quebec. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

For sports and leisure activities where spectators are seated in the stands, the number of people that may be admitted is 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.

Of course, the rules are different for large-scale venues such as the Bell Centre where 3,500 people were allowed during the NHL playoffs — normally it seats more than 21,000. Festivals and outdoor events in Quebec are now allowed up to 5,000 attendees.

While some rules are being scaled back, others are staying put. People have to keep their face covered indoors for now.

Mask rules may be relaxed if the epidemiological situation in Quebec continues to improve, Arruda said.

The delta variant remains a concern, but getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent a powerful fourth wave, said Arruda.

"If you have an effort or one thing to do, it's to get your second dose as quickly as possible," he said.

The decision to scale back measures is being met with mixed reviews from the retail sector.

Marc Fortin, president of the Quebec division of the Retail Council of Canada, says it's good news.

"We believe it's going to be a nice upside for businesses. They're going to see a lot of customers coming in and customers do want to go," he said.

Diane Bergeron, who has owned a clothing store in Quebec City for 17 years, said the changes will make no difference to her because her business is a small one.

There just isn't enough space to keep customers one metre apart, she said, so she will continue to limit the number of shoppers allowed in the store at once.

"I am happy with reducing the distancing to one metre," she said. "But, personally, from what I can see, people don't respect the distancing rules."

With files from Franca Mignacca and Radio-Canada

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