This post was originally published on June 30, 2020 and was last updated on August 7, 2020.

In Québec, most activities have resumed in all sectors that were still confined except for regular holiday camps with a stay (except for special needs persons).

This article, which is updated from time to time, looks at the governmental rules and guidance regarding the resumption of activities in Québec. While most businesses can reopen, for many, it will still not be business as usual as a result of restrictions for health and safety purposes.

Key Orders in this Phase of the Government's Deconfinement Plan

Order in Council No 689-2020 made on June 25, 2020 (Order 689-2020) provides the initial details on this phase of the government's deconfinement plan. It essentially revokes some of the key orders prohibiting assemblies and suspending activities carried on in work environments and then resets new parameters and requirements around physical distancing, gatherings and certain activities in certain sectors.

As of July 10th, additional restrictions regarding bars were added by Ministerial Order 2020-051 dated July 10, 2020 (Order 2020-051). Further restrictions were added later in July by Order in Council No 810-2020 made on July 15, 2020 and Order in Council No. 813-2020 made on July 22, 2020, this time requiring the wearing of masks or face coverings.

As of August 3rd, Ministerial Order 2020-053 dated August 1, 2020 (Order 2020-053) amends Order 689-2020 and somewhat relaxes the rules regarding the maximum number of people that can be gathered in courtrooms, movie theatres, rooms in which performing arts are presented, places of worship, halls, interior training sessions and amateur sports events.

As of August 5th, Order in Council No 817-2020 made on August 5, 2020 (Order 817-2020) amends Order 689-2020. It removes the ban on festivals and relaxes the rules regarding the maximum number of people that can be gathered in outdoor public places and at indoor professional sports events.

Physical Distancing and Working Remotely

Order 689-2020 requires people in all places to maintain, to the extent possible, a distance of two metres between themselves subject to certain exceptions including where people are occupants of the same home or where one person is receiving from a service or support from another person, in which case physical distancing is not required.

In common areas of shopping centres, water parks, amusement parks or theme parks, a distance of two metres must be maintained between people. There is no mention about "the extent possible", meaning there is less tolerance for people not maintaining the proper distance.

The two metre rule effectively limits the number of people working in proximity to one another. Order 689-2020 also requires that, where possible, workplaces give preference to working remotely from a private residence or its equivalent. However, the government site indicates that, since July 18th, private sector employers whose employees were working remotely can allow a maximum of 25% of their staff to return to the office.

Finally, as mentioned above and detailed in one of our recent articles, Québec has, subject to certain exceptions, made the wearing of masks or face coverings mandatory in indoor public spaces and in shared transportation services. Furthermore, even where it is not mandatory, the government site also recommends the use of a mask or face covering when it is not possible to keep a distance of two metres from other people.

Certain Sectors

For certain sectors, Order 689-2020 also limits the ability to gather while at the same time relaxing the two metre rule.

Private Residence and Tourist Homes

In private residences (or the like) and tourist homes, the two metre rule does not apply but gatherings (whether within such places or on their grounds) must be limited to a maximum of 10 people except if the people are occupants of the same private residence or one person is receiving from another person a service or support. The government site recommends such gatherings include people from no more than three households.

Restaurants, Bars and the Like

The two metre rule does not apply to people seated at the same table (counters are considered tables) in any restaurant, bar or other room used for the purposes of restaurant services or the consumption of alcoholic beverages. However, no more than 10 people can be gathered at the table. The premises must also be arranged so as to maintain two metres between tables, unless there is a physical barrier able to limit contagion separating the tables. Moreover, only people seated at a table may be served and people cannot serve themselves directly from a buffet or have access to a self-serve counter.

Finally, since July 10th, as provided in Order 2020-051, additional restrictions apply to bars including:

  • a general restriction to operate a bar permit from eight am to midnight; and
  • an obligation on the holders of a bar permit to limit the number of guests to 50% of the capacity indicated on their bar permit.

In addition, the government site states that: "A bar owners must establish a register that records customers' contact information or have a group of customers designate a person to facilitate epidemiological follow-up in the event of outbreaks. The process will, obviously, comply with privacy rules."

Casinos and Gaming Houses

At casinos and gaming houses no more than 10 people can be gathered at the same table. The Order does not mention relaxing the two metre rule for those around the table. The premises must also be arranged so as to maintain two metres between tables, unless there is a physical barrier able to limit contagion separating the tables.

Classrooms, Courtrooms, Movie Theatres, Rooms in Which Performing Arts Are Presented, Places of Worship , Halls, Interior Training Sessions and Sports Events

In classrooms, courtrooms, movie theatres and rooms in which performing arts are presented, including venues where the arts are performed and broadcast, when they are seated, the physical distance requirement drops to 1.5 metres between the students or members of the public.

Initially, Order 689-2020 allowed a maximum of 50 people to be gathered:

  • In attendance in a place of worship, courtroom, movie theatre or room in which performing arts are presented, including venues where the arts are performed and broadcast;
  • In attendance of an interior production or audio-video filming, interior recording of a performance, interior training session or amateur sports event; and
  • In any hall rented to any person, establishment, enterprise or other body, including community hall.

Order 2020-053 has now raised this maximum number from 50 people to 250 people. While this number is significantly higher, the ability to gather this many people depends on the size and set-up of the room as physical distance requirements must still be respected. Order 817-2020 now extends indoor gathering of 250 people to any sports event. Additional guidance is provided on the government site.

Tourist Accommodations

Tourist accommodations must not provide access to common kitchens, and dormitories cannot accommodate more than 10 people. According to the government site, since July 10th, it is no longer mandatory to wait 24 hours between rentals.

Drive Ins

People must view the film or any show from their vehicle.

Outdoor public places

Order 817-2020 allows for gatherings of 250 people in "outdoor public places" which means any outdoor place that is not the land of a private residence (or its equivalent). Where an outdoor event (including those of a social, commercial, religious, cultural, sporting, recreational or entertainment nature, and festivals) takes place on several separate, non-adjoining sites and, for which separate access or waiting areas have been established, each site can host a maximum of 250 people.

Only members of the public are included in the count of 250 people. As clarified by the government site, staff as well as performers are not affected by this limit. Furthermore, the limit of 250 people does not apply where people remain in cars or exercise their right to peacefully demonstrate.

Outdoor event organizers must, amongst other rules detailed in Order 817-2020, also ensure that:

  • the capacity of the site allows for a distance of two metres between people except for those from the same household or if a person receives a service or support from another person;
  • measures are in place to inform participants of the physical distancing rules and foster compliance with those rules; and
  • the gathering is ended if it becomes impossible to comply with the rules regarding the 250 people maximum or physical distancing.

Back to Work Health and Safety

General and sectoral guides regarding back to work safety are available on the site of the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) and Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) and employers continue to be encouraged to use them.

These guides provide that it is the employer's responsibility to identify the risks of transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. If it is impossible to eliminate the risk of contamination, the employer must try to reduce and control it. The employer must also identify the tasks for which employees may be exposed to the virus.

Preventive measures are also suggested by these guides, and include, but are not limited to:

  • exclusion of symptomatic persons from the workplace, identification of symptomatic employees through a questionnaire or employee self-assessment;
  • the organization of work methods;
  • compliance with hygiene measures and respiratory etiquette, including the use of single-use tissues and frequent hand washing;
  • frequent cleaning of frequently touched tools, equipment and surfaces, as well as sanitary facilities and eating and resting areas; and
  • maintaining and keeping ventilation systems in good working order.

Open for Now

The ability to maintain this level of deconfinement depends on the progression of the virus and the healthcare system's ability to deal with it. New closings may occur if additional outbreaks of the virus arise which compromise the healthcare system's ability to deal with it.

We will keep you posted.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.