Quebec will require people to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter liquor and cannabis stores starting Jan. 18, as a way to coerce unvaccinated people to get their first doses, Health Minister Christian Dube said Jan. 6.
Dube said he only introduced new rules for liquor and pot stores because they are owned and operated by the provincial government, adding that he would soon announce more services and businesses for which the vaccine passport would apply, following consultations with various sectors. He hinted at limiting access to shopping malls and personal care salons.
“If they won’t protect themselves, we’ll protect them from themselves,” Dube told reporters in Montreal, referring to people who haven’t had a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine. He said unvaccinated people represent about 10 per cent of Quebec adults but account for about 50 per cent of COVID-19 intensive care patients.
Quebec’s vaccine passport is required to access businesses such as bars and restaurants, which have been closed to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Liquor and cannabis stores, however, are still open during the lockdown.
He added that the vaccine passport would be updated to require three doses instead of two, as soon as all Quebecers have access to booster shots. The general public 50 and older can book appointments for third doses, as can pregnant women, health-care workers and other select groups.
The health minister announced the new coercive rules for liquor and cannabis stores as the province struggles with what he called “the worst combination” of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and rising numbers of absent health-care workers.
He said about 20,000 health staff are off work because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, adding that the government is working with unions to find more staff to care for up to 2,500 COVID-19 patients.
Earlier Jan. 6, a government health-care research institute said that within two weeks there could be more than 3,000 COVID-19 patients in regular hospital beds and another 400 in intensive care – higher than at any previous point in the pandemic.
Health officials reported 1,953 COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Jan. 6, a rise of almost 12 per cent compared with the prior day. More than 400 patients entered hospital in the past 24 hours and 212 were discharged. Officials said there were 207 patients in intensive care, a rise of 16.
Officials reported 15,874 new cases on Jan. 6 and 26 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. They said about 31 per cent of tests came back positive, up from the 28 per cent reported on Jan. 5.