Gradual reopening plan: First stage education and daycare
As the province of Quebec prepares for a gradual recovery and reopening of business and the economy, the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, immediately mentioned that the situation in the CHSLDs and in the Greater Montreal region differs greatly from that prevailing in the rest of Quebec. “Thus, the reopening of schools and daycares as well as the gradual recovery of the economy will be done in different ways depending on the region,” said the Prime Minister.
The plan, starting May 4, 2020, is to recover cautiously therefore, if the government realizes that the situation is not under control as indicated, the deadline for reopening will be extended.
The Quebec approach is developed and proposed with the support of public health authorities who will closely monitor each of the stages and readjustments as necessary.
This first stage of the plan includes:
- Starting May 4, and upon invitation from their children’s schools, parents will be able to come to school to collect their children’s educational materials – as well as additional tools for remote learning, such as laptops and tablets with internet access. The entire education network will have access to free training on methods of teaching from distance-teaching.
- Elementary schools and daycares outside of the greater Montreal region will reopen on May 11, though class sizes will be limited to 15 students, and the two-metre distancing rule will have to be respected wherever possible. The occupancy rate in daycares and the ratio of children to educators will gradually be increased over time, depending on how well the spread of COVID-19 is contained. Children will not lose their place in a daycare if a parent decides to keep them at home.
- Hygiene and sanitation measures will also be implemented in schools according to the recommendations of the public health authorities.
- On school buses, the rule will be one child per bench seat.
- Elementary schools and daycares of greater Montreal, including Laval and surrounding suburbs, will reopen on May 19.
- Attendance will not be mandatory.
- Students who have health conditions or serious immune deficiency issues that could put them at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19 are not to return to school. Educational and professional support will be offered.
- Teachers over the age of 60 or teachers who are pregnant or breastfeeding or who have chronic health or serious immune deficiency issues should remain at home until further notice.
- The Ministry of Education will also provide masks to daycare educators, but it won’t be mandatory to wear them.
- Any student or staff member showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be banned from attending school for a period of 14 days. In the case of a student, educational and professional support will be offered during this period.
- As for students in vocational training and general adult education, they can resume their learning, but in various ways (online courses, distance learning, etc.). However, at no time should more than 50 percent of the students be in class simultaneously for the practical aspects of their training.
All other schools – high schools, colleges and universities – won’t reopen until late August. Distance learning according to current arrangements can continue for the summer session 2020. Because it’s legally mandatory for teens up to 16 years of age to be in school in Quebec, a teenager who is at home must continue their schooling, and their parents must accompany them in that.
The premier said the decision to begin loosening coronavirus restrictions by reopening elementary schools was made, in part, because the risk of younger children developing complications from COVID-19 is very low. He also said keeping schools closed for months at a stretch posed considerable risk to the well-being of some children, especially those with learning difficulties.
Legault said schools now have two to three weeks’ notice to make changes that comply with physical-distancing rules.
An agreement has also been reached between the MEES and TÉLUQ University for the creation of an accelerated training course on distance education for teachers who need to improve their knowledge and skills in this area. The first courses will be available from May 4. Training will also be posted on the Open School portal so that teachers can quickly access it.
Bans on public gatherings will remain in effect.
The reopening for businesses and other sectors is outlined below.
Gradual reopening plan: business and other sectors phases
- retail stores outside shopping malls or that are in a shopping mall but have a door directly to the outside will be permitted to open on May 4, 2020, except those in the metropolitan area of Montreal, which cannot open until May 11, 2020. Businesses supplying these shops will be able to open on the same dates. The government expects that the reopening of shops and their supply vendors will enable 196,000 Quebecers to return to work;
- construction businesses will be permitted to operate as of May 11, 2020 in all sectors of the construction industry. Businesses supplying construction businesses will also be permitted to reopen. The government expects that the reopening of the construction sector will enable 85,000 Quebecers to return to work; and
- manufacturing businesses will reopen in two phases. On May 11, 2020, manufacturers will be permitted to operate with a maximum of 50 workers, plus 50% of the remaining number of workers usually scheduled for any shift that usually exceeds 50 workers. For example, a company that employs 50 workers on a shift will be able to operate at full capacity (i.e., with all 50 employees on shift). However, a company that employs 500 workers on the same shift can only have 275 workers in the facility for that shift (i.e., 50 employees, plus half the number of employees between 50 and 500, being an additional 225). Subject to the government determining otherwise, on May 25, 2020, the restriction on the number of employees will be lifted. The government expects this measure will result in 176,000 Quebecers returning to work.
As businesses reopen, the CNESST and Public Health guidelines must be followed. More guidelines are expected later this week. Fines or penalties for a failure to comply will be imposed by the CNESST.
Premier Legault also commented that the following requirements and recommendations will remain in place during this initial reopening:
- businesses (except restaurants offering takeout and delivery, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and convenience stores) must be closed on Sundays until May 31, 2020;
- all employees who can work from home will have to continue to do so;
- employees at increased risk (e.g., with underlying health problems or more than 60 years old) should not return to work; and
- there are no current plans to reopen any part of the tourism industry (e.g., fishing, camping, outfitting, restaurants, etc.).
On May 4, 2020, Premier Legault announced that the reopening of businesses and daycares in the Montreal region has been postponed to May 19, 2020 given the current level of outbreak and capacity of the healthcare system. The exceptions to the announcement were businesses in the construction and manufacturing sectors, which are still permitted to operate as of May 11, 2020.
The reopening plans for other regions of Quebec are expected to proceed as previously announced.
For the restaurant, cultural and accommodations sectors, the government confirmed that reopening (other than for take-out or delivery food) is not probable in the near future
On May 6, 2020, the Quebec government confirmed the following:
- daycares permitted to reopen as part of the government’s reopening plan will be initially limited to 30 percent capacity; and
- a plan for certain summer events and sporting activities will be announced in the coming weeks.
Finally, the CNESST launched COVID-19 health and safety toolkits for the education sector, as well as daycare services and home childcare providers. The toolkits include a guide of health standards, a daily checklist and a poster on preventive measures.
On May 7, 2020, Premier Legault announced the reopening of businesses, schools and daycare services in the greater Montreal area has been further postponed to May 25, 2020, conditional on an improvement in both the COVID-19 outbreak and healthcare services in the area.
On May 12, 2020, Premier Legault confirmed that wearing a mask in public is not a legal requirement in Quebec, though it is strongly recommended where individuals cannot maintain a physical distance of 2-metres (except for inside a household). The Premier also confirmed that the currently scheduled reopening of businesses and schools in Montreal on May 25, 2020, may be further postponed.
On May 14, 2020, the Quebec government announced the further postponement of reopening plans in Montreal:
- primary schools will not be reopened until late August/early September 2020 at the earliest; and
- daycare services will not be reopened until June 1, 2020 at the earliest.
Retail stores may still reopen on May 25, 2020; however, the government confirmed that the current state of the healthcare system may result in further postponement.
The government announced that it will provide financial assistance to the Montreal Metropolitan Community (MMC) and its transit authorities to provide masks for use on public transit.
Finally, the government has asked that employers not require any employees get tested for COVID-19 unless they have been in contact with a symptomatic person.
On the weekend of May 16-17, 2020, Premier Legault announced:
- businesses with external access (i.e., an exterior exit) in the greater Montreal area may reopen on May 25, 2020;
- daycares in the greater Montreal area may reopen on June 1, 2020 (with a maximum capacity of 50%);
- the government will provide a detailed plan for a return to full surgical services in the health care sector this week; and
- this week, the government will provide a plan for lifting certain social and group restrictions (though certain rules will remain, including keeping a 2-metre distance).
On May 19, 2020, Premier Legault also confirmed the government’s plan for reopening additional sectors and activities, such as hairdressers, massage therapists, day camps and gatherings, is expected soon
On May 20, 2020, the Quebec Deputy Premier announced that outdoor gatherings will be permitted in all regions as of May 22, 2020. Gatherings are to be capped at a maximum of 10 people from a maximum of 3 different households. A 2-meter distance should be maintained between individuals from different households.
The government also announced that:
- the following private healthcare clinics throughout the province may reopen on June 1, 2020: dental clinics, therapeutic care clinics (physiotherapists, optometrists, psychologists, social workers, nutritionists), alternative medicine providers, pet grooming businesses; and
- the following aesthetic and personal care businesses that have their own exterior exit (i.e. which are not internally located in shopping centres, etc.) may reopen (with restrictions to be confirmed) on June 1, 2020 throughout the province, with the exceptions of the region of Montreal and the Regional County Municipality of Joliette: hairdressers, barbers, beauty shops, manicure salons, skin treatment centres, tattoo and piercing centres.
All reopening businesses are expected to provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment and follow all public health requirements.
On May 21, 2020, youth day camps have been given permission to open on June 22, 2020. Though still to be confirmed, the government expects the ratios of counsellors to children to be as high as 1 to 10 for the oldest children, and as low as 1 to 4 for younger children. Based on these ratios, the government is anticipating a shortage of counsellors.
On May 22, 2020, the Quebec government announced:
- museums, libraries’ circulation desks as well as drive-in movie facilities will be able to reopen under certain conditions on May 29, 2020. Guides for reopening have been developed by CNESST in partnership with sector stakeholders; and
- recording studios and the filming of live shows without an audience will be permitted as of June 1, 2020, with restrictions. A distance of at least 2 metres between people on stage or in the studio must be maintained, and the maximum size of any technical team is limited to 5 individuals.
Effective May 24, 2020, the government rescinded its orders requiring:
- the closure of retail commercial establishments (including grocery stores) on Sundays; and
- pharmacies, grocery stores and certain establishments providing pharmacy and grocery services to extend their operating hours from Monday to Saturday to meet customer needs.
Premier Legault announced:
- that shopping malls will reopen as of June 1, 2020 except within the Montreal Urban Community; and
- that the government is finalizing financial assistance programs for the provincial cultural sector, to assist the resumption of productions.
On May 27, 2020, the government announced that 1,000 officers from several government departments and agencies will visit workplaces throughout the province (with a focus on Montreal). These officers will work in conjunction with the Commission on standards, equity and occupational health and safety (CNESST) to educate workplace parties on COVID-19 health and safety standards. They intend to visit more than 200,000 businesses across 20 industry sectors, including retail, finance, manufacturing, construction and personal care.
On May 28, 2020, the Quebec Minister of Justice announced the gradual resumption of court activities starting June 1, 2020, including the use of 136 new virtual courtrooms.
On May 29, 2020, the Quebec government announced the gradual reopening of the following personal care and beauty services starting June 15, 2020 in the Montreal Metropolitan Community and the Regional County Municipality of Joliette: hair salons, barber shops, beauty centres, manicure and pedicure services, hair removal and skin care services, and tattoo and body piercing businesses.
On June 1, 2020, the Quebec government announced the resumption of activities in the audiovisual production sector (e.g. filming, pre-production and post production) as of June 8, 2020, subject to public health restrictions. The government expects to have details on the reopening of other parts of the cultural sector in the coming weeks.
On June 3, 2020, the Quebec government introduced Bill 61 (in French only), which would extend the provincial health emergency indefinitely if passed by the National Assembly, among other things. Bill 61 also contains a number of COVID-19 economic recovery measures, including the acceleration of up to 202 infrastructure programs in the health, education, public transit and roads sectors.
On June 4, 2020, the Quebec government announced the gradual resumption of outdoor team sport training, with physical distancing restrictions, starting June 8, 2020. The full resumption of team games is expected to be announced prior to the end of June, and is expected to require rule amendments (e.g. to maintain physical distancing in the sport). The government announced that sport federations will be required to have COVID-19 guides approved by public health authorities before any resumption of play will be permitted. The government also announced:
- effective June 8, 2020, private swimming pools may open to the public. A guide for operators has been published by the Association des responsables aquatiques du Québec; and
- the supervised practice of individual sports (e.g. yoga, guided outdoor activities) is now permitted, so long as physical distancing of 2-metres is respected.
On June 8, 2020, the Quebec government announced that restaurants will be able to reopen:
- on June 15, 2020 outside the Montreal area, the Regional County Municipality of Joliette and the municipality of L’Épiphanie; and
- on June 22, 2020 in the Montreal Area, the Regional County Municipality of Joliette and the municipality of L’Épiphanie.
Indoor dining rooms as well as patios will be permitted, subject to the following:
- other than occupants of the same residence, customers must remain 2-metres apart;
- masks for employees will be mandatory if they cannot remain 2-metres apart;
- self-serving areas like buffet, salad bars and soda fountains are prohibited;
- restaurants cannot operate as nightclubs, or performance venues, even if they did prior to the pandemic; and
- nightclubs and bars that do not serve food must remain closed.
Regulations with respect to liquor licences will be amended to allow, among other things, the temporary service of alcohol on terraces.
The CNESST deployed 1,000 prevention agents and 450 agents to visit the restaurants to ensure compliance with the applicable rules.
The Quebec government also announced that indoor gatherings in private residences will permitted effective June 15, 2020 outside Montreal, the Regional County Municipality of Joliette and the municipality of L’Épiphanie, and commencing on June 22, 2020 in those delayed regions, if the following conditions are met:
- attendees are capped at 10 people from 3 separate households;
- all health recommendations applicable to gatherings are observed, especially physical distancing of 2-metres;
- buffet style meals are avoided; and
- at risk individuals (especially those more than 70 years old) should avoid such gatherings.
On June 15, 2020, the Quebec public health authority announced that as of June 22, 2020:
- indoor public gatherings of up to 50 people will be permitted. Though 2-metre distancing will be generally expected, in places where individuals remain seated, such as CÉGEP and university classrooms and in cinemas, physical distancing of 1.5-metres will be permitted;
- physical distancing rules required amongst those 16 years of age and under will be reduced to 1-metre, including in day cares, schools and camps.
On June 16, 2020, the Quebec government unveiled its plan to reopen schools at 100 percent capacity for the upcoming school year, and provided the following details:
- for preschool, primary and secondary school:
- masks will be required for preschool teachers, those working with students with disabilities or those who must come in close contact with a student;
- preschool, elementary and secondary 1, 2 and 3 classes will be organized in sub-groups of 6 students or less. A 1-metre distance between sub-groups of students and 2-metres between students and staff, and between staff and other staff, will be required. Teachers will move between classes, while the students will stay in the same room; and
- secondary 4 and 5 students will either have scheduled closed class groups for their mandatory and elective courses, or will have class groups attending school on alternating days. Online learning and homework will be part of the curriculum.
- for general adult education and professional training, where social distancing is not possible, students and teachers must be provided with personal protective equipment;
- all schools must have an emergency protocol to deal with COVID-19 scenarios before the school year starts;
- school sports will be subject to the rules provided by applicable sports federations; and
- with respect to transportation to and from school, parents are encouraged to provide their children with transportation. Where students rely on school transportation (i.e., buses), a 1-metre distance between students will be required.
On June 17, 2020, the Quebec government announced that indoor sports facilities and beaches will be permitted to reopen, and lifeguard training will be permitted, on June 22, 2020. The CNESST will publish guidelines for the reopening.
On June 22, 2020, the Quebec Secrétariat du travail confirmed that face-to-face proceedings are now permissible where at least one of the following conditions is present:
- there is a risk of strike or lockout, or a work stoppage is effective;
- there is a risk of closure; or
- the progress of a conciliation file requires a meeting in person.
The Bureau d’évaluation médicale reopened in Montreal. The Bureau’s Quebec City location resumed its activities on June 15, 2020.
On June 25, 2020, the Quebec government announced that as of June 25, 2020, establishments in all sectors will be able to reopen, with the exception of establishments engaged in the following:
- sporting fights; and
- overnight summer camps.
This phase of reopening is subject to certain guidelines, including:
- teleworking continue wherever possible;
- common kitchen areas remain closed in tourist accommodations;
- all customers in bars must be seated, and no dancing is permitted; and
- continued adherence to physical distancing (2-metres) and sector-specific conditions previously announced.
The government announced that it is decreasing the frequency of its COVID-19 updates to a single weekly update, with the next update to be delivered on July 2, 2020.
On June 30, 2020, the Quebec government announced that starting July 13, 2020, the use of a mask will be mandatory for users of public transportation aged 12 and over. For children between the ages of 2 and 12, masks are strongly recommended, but not mandatory. There will be a two week transition period to help riders adjust to mandatory mask wearing. After July 27, 2020, those not in compliance will not be permitted to use public transportation.
On July 6, 2020, the Quebec Minister of Health and the Director of Public Health reminded business owners, and in particular operators of bars, commercial terraces, and swimming pools, to follow public health rules or risk penalties (including license revocation).
The government also published a Summary of Reopened Activities confirming:
- which activities are permitted and which remain prohibited;
- the rules for authorized outdoor and indoor gatherings; and
- that as of July 13, 2020, masks or face coverings will be mandatory on all public transit in Quebec for those 12 years of age or older.
On July 8, 2020, the government launched a public consultation on a proposed mobile phone tracing application (or “app”) that would notify people if they have been near an anonymous individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the previous 14 days. According to the government, the app would exclude any form of GPS geolocation and would not share any personal information.
On July 9, 2020, the Quebec government announced additional measures to ensure compliance with health regulations in the province’s bars. As of July 10, 2020:
- bars will be required to stop selling alcoholic beverages at midnight instead of 3 a.m. and people in bars will have to be out of the bar by 1 a.m.;
- bars’ capacity is limited to 50% of the capacity indicated on their liquor permits;
- there will be a ban on dance activities and clients will be required to be seated to consume alcohol.
A register to record the contact information of a bar’s customers, or of a person designated by a group of customers, will be required.
As announced by the Quebec government on June 30, and confirmed on July 10, 2020, the wearing of a face cover will be mandatory to use the services (i.e., ferries) of the Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ) as of Monday July 13, and this, to continue the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The obligation applies to all customers aged 12 and over, who must wear the face cover at all times on STQ vessels, both inside and outside. It will also be highly recommended for children 2 to 12 years old. Wearing a face cover will not replace the physical distance of two meters, which remains required at all times. Security guards will ensure that these health regulations are observed. The only situation where the wearing of a mask will not be required concerns motorists who will remain in their car, window closed. Remember that it is recommended, but not mandatory, for customers to stay in their vehicle in all STQ ferries except that of Matane – Baie-Comeau – Godbout .
On July 13, 2020, Quebec Premier Legault announced that wearing a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces will be required as of July 18, 2020, and in particular will be required in:
- retail stores;
- private professional offices;
- colleges and universities (except classrooms);
- malls and shopping centres;
- event spaces;
- common areas of office buildings;
- public transport;
- restaurants (until seated); and
- any other enclosed public space.
The requirement will apply to those 12 years of age and older. For children from 2 to 12 years old, a mask or face covering is highly recommended. Individuals with a medical condition that precludes them from wearing a mask or face covering will be exempt from the requirement.
Business owners will be responsible for enforcing this new rule, with fines ranging from $400 to $6,000. Business owners are to call the police in the event that a customer refuses to comply with this new rule. As of August 1, 2020 the government may introduce fines for individuals who refuse to wear masks.
Premier Legault also indicated that bars and other businesses may be subject to closure again if the provincial COVID-19 situation deteriorates.
On July 15, 2020, the Quebec government announced that as of July 18, 2020, private employers not currently permitted to do so will be permitted to return workers to their workplaces, subject to a 25 percent occupancy limit. Notwithstanding this, the government continues to encourage working from home.
Wearing a mask will be mandatory in all common areas of private employers’ establishments.