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What the orange alert means for Montreal, plus what's restricted and not

On September 20, the Quebec government announced that Montreal—along with Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches region—is now under 'orange alert'

By JP Karwacki
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Following an announcement on Sunday, September 20, Montreal found itself—along with Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches region—now at stage 3, or orange, alert. Quebec reported 427 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, September 19 and 462 on Sunday, September 20; numbers haven't reached these levels since May, spurring the government to make its decision.

It's one of four stages that regions of the province can be placed under, with green meaning that restrictions are still in place (but eased up) and red on the other end meaning that restrictions will be intensified, but the government wants to avoid putting any region back in lockdown similar to what was experienced from March to May 2020.

When the system was first unveiled on September 8 by Quebec's Health Minister Christian Dubé, Montreal was at yellow alert. Now with its new alert system, what does that mean for the city?

1. It only applies to Montreal, not the immediately surrounding regions

If you take a look at the government's map of regions and their current warning levels, you'll see that Laval to the north and Montéregie to the south are currently yellow. While that may change, it does mean that the government is currently regarding the situation in Montreal as isolated.

2. What restrictions are in place?

Orange / Level 3 isis the 'alert' stage, where the government begins to restrict previously established allowances for public interaction. At this stage, gatherings indoors and outdoors become smaller; organized activities become smaller; bars, restaurants and stores are still open, but with less people inside or at a table at a given time; people are encouraged to avoid CHSLDs and travel is increasingly restricted. Full details are here:

Private indoor and outdoor gatherings: There is a maximum 6 people OR 2 families permitted to be together at one time.

Activities organized in a public setting: There can only be 25 people gathering at most in space like rented halls, places of worship, festival events, marriages, workplace or school celebrations, barbecues, picnics, and so forth.

Public venue halls and audiences: A maximum of 250 people can gather; people must be seated, relatively immobile, there must be little or no talking, and the audience will receive staff supervision.

Bars, brasseries, taverns, casinos: Maximum 6 patrons per tables; no alcohol or food sales can happen after 11pm; all of these business types must close at midnight; all guests must sign a mandatory customer name and contact list.

Restaurants: Maximum 6 patrons per table, with no alcohol sales after 11pm (when last call happens) and no alcohol consumption after midnight.

Stores: It's recommended that only 1 person per household should visit a store, but there is no limit on how many people can be in a store (provided it's within social distancing guidelines). For some reason the government says "delivery available and key family member assistance for clients with a high risk of complications"... but that doesn't mean stores are mandated to provide this.

Inter-regional travel: Not recommended, unfortunately.

CHSLDs (long-term care nursing homes): Only visits for humanitarian reasons and visits by informal caregivers who provide significant assistance are permitted.

RPA (Residences for Seniors): No more than 6 people at a time can be in a rental unit—such as families visiting—including the resident.

3. How is the alert being enforced?

Heightened police presence and an increased amount of restrictions are being put in place; when compared to Montreal yellow status before, less people are now able to gather for social reasons; those that do gather should expect more specific requirements like filling out contact tracing forms at bars and to respect social distancing rules in public to avoid getting fines from the police.

4. What happens during the red / level 4 alert?

This is the 'Maximum Alert' stage, where there are more restrictive measures in place. However, the government wants to avoid the complete lockdown that lasted months earlier in 2020, so one can expect activities will be individually assessed and shut down as the situation grows more or less severe. Leaked documents have suggested many things would close, but the government has said these documents were possibilites, not blueprints.

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