Note: The government order which brings into effect certain new restrictions and extends closures on retail businesses until February 8, 2021 is not yet available. Therefore, what is set out below is based upon the press conference of Premier Legault on January 6, 2021 and information respecting the restrictions published on the government website  (“Confinement in Québec”).

Since October 2020, a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Québec has led the Government of Québec to (i) continuously renew the province's public health emergency and (ii) reimpose some restrictions that had previously been lifted in many regions. The current restrictions in Level 4/Red zones for businesses which were to stay in effect until January 10, 2021 have now been extended to February 8, 2021 with certain loosening of restrictions for non-priority businesses.  All of Quebec except for the remote northern regions of Terres-Cries-de-la-Baie-James and Nunavik will be in Maximum Alert Level 4/Red zone as of January 9, 2021. 

This article highlights the additional restrictions on business and how they build on those that were previously in effect (see our prior article) and is regularly updated as Québec's pandemic response develops.  Note that restrictions on educational and sports facilities are not covered here. 

Ministerial Order 1419-2020 dated December 23, 2020 (as amended) ordered the closures of “non-priority commercial enterprises” throughout Québec, extended restrictions on those permitted to remain open and mandated teleworking for all workers except those who must be physically present to permit the organization (public or private) to pursue its activities.  

The closures of non-priority businesses has now been extended until February 8, 2021 but will permit curbside pickup of items purchased for all businesses during this time as of January 9, 2021.  E-commerce with home delivery is not affected by the closures.

On Saturday, January 9, 2021, a curfew will come into effect until February 8, 2021 in all Red Zones throughout Quebec prohibiting Quebecers from leaving their homes between 8 pm and 5 am except in specific situations that have been deemed to justify travel.  

Also until February 8, 2021, for Red zones, only persons living at the same address are permitted to spend time together inside and outside except that, in all zones, for those living alone or single parents, the following persons are allowed;  one visitor from another address (the same person to limit social contacts); one informal caregiver; individuals offering services or support and labour for planned work. 

For Québec residents in orange and yellow zones, up to six people are permitted to meet together... 

Below we set out

(i) the new restrictions on businesses including a list of the priority businesses permitted to remain open until February 8, 2021;

(ii) the continuing restrictions on businesses permitted to remain open;

(iii) the restrictions in the different zones in respect of

  • the operations of restaurants, bars, microbreweries, tourist accommodation, casinos, museums, amusement centres, libraries, movie theatres, places of worship, residential and long-term care centres, rented halls and others; and
  • private and public gatherings.

Public Health Emergency Extended

Québec's public health emergency continues to be extended (currently to January 15, 2021) by the Québec Minister of Health and Social Services who is empowered to take measures necessary to protect public health.

Business closures and restrictions

Québec-wide Restrictions: Non-priority businesses to remain closed until February 8, 2021

Only the following commercial enterprises will be considered priority businesses and authorized to continue to operate in the period up to and including February 8, 2021:

  • animal feed and supply stores;
  • medical, orthopaedic, and eye care goods stores;
  • work-related safety and protection equipment stores;
  • household and building cleaning products stores;
  • stores that sell products, parts, and other material necessary for transportation and logistics services and vehicle repair or maintenance, including vehicle repair and maintenance centres, but excluding the sale of vehicles;
  • stores that sell products for farms, such as mechanical equipment, fertilizer, and so on;
  • stores offering computer and electronic equipment repair service but only for such services;
  • convenience stores (including non-specialized tobacco stores);
  • grocery stores and other food stores;
  • big-box stores and other sales areas offering customers a wide variety of types of products but only for essential products (such as those sold by other businesses on this list) and expressly excluding toys, clothing, books, electronic devices, decorative items, cookware and household appliances;
  • pharmacies but only for everyday essential products;
  • hardware stores but only for essential hardware products required for outdoor maintenance, repair or construction;
  • service stations;
  • stores offering sports and outdoor recreational equipment repair and rental but only for such services;
  • flower shops;
  • stores in post-secondary institutions offering material specifically required for classes;
  • the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ); and
  • the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC).

As of January 9, 2021, for priority and non-priority businesses, it will be possible to purchase products online or by telephone and have them delivered or pick them up on site if pickup occurs outside the premises. 

For shopping centres, the only traffic areas that may remain open are those which ensure access to priority businesses that are not required to close until February 8, 2021.

Healthcare and social services (dentists, optometrists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, osteopaths, etc.) can continue to provide their services. Personal care, beauty care and pet grooming businesses must remain closed until February 8, 2021 except beauty care services necessary for health, such as post-operative or therapeutic follow-up which may continue to be offered. Essential goods and services can be provided in an emergency context or following a disaster. 

All businesses:  limited access and teleworking

All Québec commercial businesses are required to restrict the number of customers allowed inside. The permitted number is determined by calculating the square metres of the premises accessible to customers (the Government has provided information on how the square metres and number of permitted customers are to be calculated).  A sign indicating the number of persons allowed in the premises must be displayed in the store (with the French signs being predominant).  Store operators must also take measure to manage customer traffic within the store to ensure physical distancing. 

Teleworking for workers is mandatory in all regions until February 8, 2021, inclusively, except for those who must be physically present to permit the organization (public or private) to pursue its activities.

Curfew (Red Zones)

Between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., Quebeckers must not leave their homes except in cases that justify travel.  Such cases include travel for work if the person's physical presence in the workplace is required, medical and humanitarian reasons, returning from a trip abroad and accompaniment of children in specified cases.  

Police officers are being asked to intervene when individuals are outside their homes during curfew hours and offenders are liable to fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 if they are unable to adequately justify why they are outside the home. 

Employers of individuals who must travel during the curfew hours because of their work are asked to complete the “Attestation de l'employeur – Déplacement durant le couvre-feu décrété par le gouvernement du Québec” (available only in French) to permit these workers to prove that their breaking the curfew is legitimate. The form can be accessed here.

Limitation on manufacturers and construction companies

The Quebec government has set out recommendations for the manufacturing and construction sectors.  We must await the decree or ministerial order for more complete information on whether this recommendation has the force of law. 

For manufacturers and construction companies, activities are to be reduced to a minimum to complete commitments and maintain essential services. Teleworking is to be mandatory when possible and shifts adjusted to limit the staff present at any time on production and construction sites. The Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) has been asked to step up its workplace initiatives to ensure compliance with health recommendations.

Restrictions in Level 4 (Red) Regions

As of January 9, 2021, Level 4 “Maximum Alert” restrictions apply in Québec's two major metropolitan areas as well as in all the following health regions, as follows:

  • Montréal (including all municipalities in the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal);
  • Ville de Québec (including all the Capitale-Nationale health region);
  • Bas-Saint-Laurent;
  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue;
  • Chaudière-Appalaches;
  • Côte-Nord;
  • Estrie;
  • Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine;
  • Lanaudière;
  • Laurentides;
  • Laval;
  • Mauricie et Centre-du-Québec;
  • Montérégie;
  • Nord-du-Québec;
  • Outaouais; and
  • Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.

The Level 4 restrictions applicable in these “red” zones include the following.

All businesses

As set out above: (i) closure of non-priority businesses until February 8, 2021 (ii) restrictions on the number of persons allowed in businesses while they are permitted to remain open; and (iii) mandatory teleworking until February 8, 2021.

Restaurants, bars, food courts and casinos closed

Activities in the following are suspended in Level 4 zones:

  • restaurants, and food courts in shopping centres and food stores, except for deliveries, take-outs or drive-through orders;
  • bars and discotheques;
  • microbreweries and distilleries in respect of their services permitting consumption of food or beverages on the premises;
  • casinos and gaming houses;
  • museums, biodomes, planetariums, insectariums, botanical gardens, aquariums and zoos;
  • arcades and, for their indoor activities, thematic sites, amusement centres and parks, recreational centres and water parks;
  • saunas and spas, except personal care provided therein;
  • libraries other than those in educational institutions, except lending desks;
  • movie theatres and rooms in which performing arts are presented, including venues where the arts are broadcast;
  • youth hostels;
  • physical training rooms; and
  • any indoor place used for an event-based or social activity or for games such as bowling, darts, billiards and the like, other than a private residence.

There is also a prohibition against being in a place where activities have been suspended as set out above unless you are there to engage in activities that have not been suspended in these places.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings

Indoor and outdoor gatherings are prohibited as of January 9, 2021 except as specified below and in certain school-related and professional sports contexts which are not summarized here.

Outdoor group sports, cultural and recreational activities (including courses, fitness training and guided activities) are permitted in public places, alone or as a family.  Members outside the family group are no longer permitted.  Physical distancing of at least 2 metres is also required between groups.  In controlled access outdoor settings, traffic must be managed. In those locations which are freely accessible, the maximum number of attendees must be posted, along with a reminder of health regulations.

A maximum of 25 persons may attend a funeral. The organizer must maintain specific registers and patrons are required to furnish the information necessary for the purposes of the register (such information must be destroyed after 30 days). 

Masks are mandatory for demonstrations.

Private residences and tourist accommodation: guests now strictly limited

In private residences (or the like) and hotels and other tourist accommodation in Level 4 zones, only occupants of the same residence or of the tourist home are now permitted, with the following limited exceptions for:

  • a person providing service or support to another; and
  • if the person lives alone, one person from another household.

Those who live alone or are single parents may join another family bubble (always the same one).

Residential and long-term care centres

Visits are limited to those (i) for humanitarian purposes or to obtain care or services required by their state of health; or (ii) by a family caregiver who provides significant aid to the user or resident.  Private seniors' residences are required to maintain specific registers of customers and visitors.

Restrictions in Less Affected Regions

As of October 1, 2020, those areas of Québec that are less seriously affected – i.e. those not in the Level 3/Orange or Level 4/Red zones (as provided in Ministerial Order 2020-068 dated September 20, 2020 as amended and Ministerial Order 1020-2020 dated September 30, 2020 as amended) – are subject to the following restriction:

A maximum of 10 people can be present in a private residence or tourist accommodation unless they are members of the same residence or equivalent.

Exception: A person who performs a service or support may be present even though he or she is not an occupant of the residence or tourist establishment.

The September 30, 2020 Order, as amended, provides a list of what will constitute a service or support which includes, among other things:

  • service/support required for a person's health or safety, for personal care, for commercial purposes, for childcare or education, and for domestic help (among others);
  • a maintenance, repair or residential renovation service;
  • a visit for the sale or lease of a residence; and
  • other services or support of the same nature.

A maximum of 250 persons may gather in places where it is customary to sit relatively still and speak little, e.g. cinemas, theatres and audio-visual recording studios, halls rented for meetings and places of worship. A maximum of 50 persons may gather in a hall rented for any other purpose.

A person's right to peacefully demonstrate is recognized but he or she must wear a face covering and maintain a two-metre distance from others except if he or she is providing a service or support). Persons gathering in an outdoor public place must also maintain a two-metre distance from each other unless they occupy the same private residence or one of them provides a service or support to the other.

Restrictions in Level 3 (Orange) Regions

As of January 9, 2021, only the following health regions are Level 3 (orange):

  • Nunavik; and
  • Terres-Cries-de-la-Baie-James.

The Level 3 restrictions applicable in these “orange” zones include the following.

All businesses

As set out above: (i) closure of non-priority businesses until February 8, 2021 (inclusively) (ii) restrictions on the number of persons allowed in businesses while they are permitted to remain open; and (iii) mandatory teleworking until February 8, 2021 (inclusively).

Restaurants, bars, food courts and casinos

The following limit applies with respect to a restaurant, a food court in a shopping centre or food store, at casino or gaming house tables, in a bar or in any other room used for the purposes of restaurant services or the consumption of alcohol in these areas:

A maximum of 6 persons per table (down from 10) unless the persons are occupants of a single private residence (or its equivalent) or if one person is receiving from another person a service or support.

Holders of bar permits (such as restaurants, bars, breweries, taverns, and casinos) can sell alcohol only until 11 p.m. (previously, midnight). Drinking in restaurants ends at midnight and bars, breweries, taverns, and casinos must close at midnight.

Private residences and tourist accommodation

In private residences (or the like), hotels and other tourist accommodation in these areas, gatherings (whether within such places or on their grounds) are reduced to a maximum of 6 persons (down from 10) unless the persons are occupants of a maximum of 2 private residences (as opposed to the previous “recommendation” of no more than three households) or their equivalent.

From a business perspective, there is also an important exception for a person who is receiving a service or support from another.

Organized indoor and outdoor gatherings: halls, places of worship, cinemas, theatres, public venues, etc.

In Level 3 zones, a maximum of 250 people can be in attendance at a place of worship or concert halls, cinemas, theatres, etc.

A maximum of 25 people can be gathered for indoor or outdoor organized activities such as marriages, family or workplace celebrations, picnics, etc. in outdoor public settings or in a rented or community hall (exceptions for certain recreational and sports activities and public venues covered by the previous rule). 

Residential and long-term care centres

Visits have been limited to those (i) for humanitarian purposes or to obtain care or services required by their state of health; or (ii) by a family caregiver who provides significant aid to the user or resident.

Special rules for the holiday period have been put in place as set out in this government guideline (in French only).

Other recommendations

The Government of Québec continues to recommend that a resident of a Level 4 zone not travel to another region which is at Level 3 or below, or outside of Québec.


Those failing to respect the rules on social distancing, face coverings and gatherings (among others) may be fined up to $1,000 while those breaking curfew may be fined from $1,000 to $6,000.

Going Forward

Additional restrictions and closings may be imposed in other regions if the Government of Québec is unsatisfied with the province's progress in fighting the pandemic. We will keep you posted.

Originally Published by Stikeman, January 2021

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.