Quebec Premier François Legault suggested COVID-19 restrictions on shopping at stores may be eased as of Feb. 8.
In a Facebook post published Saturday morning, the premier writes: “The date that you must circle on your calendar is Feb. 8. The measures that are currently in place will remain until that date. As of then, I would like to lessen certain rules. I would like, if the situation allows, to give back a bit of oxygen to our retailers.
“It could still change for all sorts of reasons, but for now, we plan to announce our decision next Tuesday, at 5 p.m. That will allow everyone the time to adjust between now and Feb. 8.”
Quebec imposed restrictions on non-essential shopping as of Dec. 25 in an effort to restrain the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the province. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, hardware stores, pet stores and florists were allowed to remain open. Big box stores could also remain open, but were only allowed to sell essentials like groceries and pharmaceutical products.
The restrictions were initially supposed to ease on Jan. 11, but were extended as Quebec included a curfew to its set of COVID-19 restrictions that started on Jan. 9 and was slated to continue until at least Feb. 8. Legault has intimated that the curfew and other restrictions will remain in place beyond Feb. 8 in areas like Montreal that are still experiencing high COVID-19 case counts.
In his Facebook post, Legault says choosing to close all schools and most businesses in the province on March 23 as the first wave of the pandemic hit Quebec was one of the hardest of his life.
“We didn’t have the luxury of waiting. Thinking about the suffering of businesspeople, about those losing their jobs and the disruption that it was causing, I had doubts. …
“This weekend, I must again balance the pros and cons before deciding.”
Legault said he is consulting with health authorities and his deputy ministers and other experts before making the decision.
“I tell myself that I must, above all, protect the health and safety of Quebecers. I do it without knowing the future. How many vaccines will we receive in the coming weeks and months. Will the new variants of the virus come into Quebec and start another wave. For how much longer will Quebecers be able to endure safety restrictions?”