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Montreal, Fall
Photograph: © Freddy Arciniegas - @arcpixel - Tourisme Montréal

What is open in Montreal, plus what you can and can't do in the red zone

Here's everything you can and can't do in the city, and how to protect yourself, as we track what you can and can't do in Montreal's red zone

By JP Karwacki
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UPDATE, October 27 2020: Two days before red zone restrictions in regions like Montreal were set to change, Premier François Legault announced on behalf of the Quebec government that these restrictions would continue for another four (4) weeks. However, what is open and closed in Montreal, plus the rules on what you can and can't do in Montreal, have changed slightly, so we've updated our guide accordingly.

Following the Quebec government's unveiling of a new COVID-19 alert system where regions of the province could be placed in one of four stages of lockdown, the island of Montreal was first placed on orange alert on September 20 following a spike in cases and the police issuing 1,500 verbal warnings and more than 90 tickets in a huge provinical sweep of restaurants and bars in the province. On September 28th, those three regions along with others were placed under red alert.

Since then, the following regions have also been placed under red alert: The Capitale-Nationale region; Mauricie; Centre-du-Québec; Gatineau and Les Collines-de-l'Outaouais in the Outaouais region; Carleton-sur-Mer, Maria and Nouvelle in the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine region; Appalaches, Beauce-Sartigan, Bellechasse, Lotbinière, La Nouvelle-Beauce, Robert-Cliche and the city of Lévis in the Chaudière-Appalaches region; Laval; Joliette, D'Autray, L’Assomption, and Les Moulins in the Lanaudière region; parts of Deux-Montagnes in the Montréal region, La Rivière-du-Nord, Thérèse-De Blainville, and Mirabel in the Laurentides region; and the Montérégie region. Find the full list here.

Since May, restrictions have been lifted and reinstated in different sectors of Quebec as the provincial government's deconfinement process slowly rolls out (or starts back up again). Make no mistake, however: We still have a long way to go before things return to normal. But what about Montreal? What's open and closed in Montreal right now?

The short answer is: Some of it.

The long answer: It depends on what you're asking about.

Figuring out where Montreal is on the road to deconfinement can be difficult as stories fly through our feeds at lightspeed and the general day-to-day feels like somewhere between a waiting game and a minefield. Consider this as a place to find all the information you need to know until this beautiful city gets back on its feet completely as we track any and all announcements concerning deconfinement in the Greater Montreal area.

Here's what you can and can't do in and around Montreal right now

What is open in Montreal right now?

In a sentence: Some of it, so long as case numbers stay within reasonable limits.

Since the beginning of the city's lockdowns (yes, plural) beginning on March 15, the city has since been placed under another lockdown of sorts from October 26 to November 23.

Back on May 25, following several weeks of intermittent openings of different sectors opening—beginning with schools (which was cancelled), manufacturing and construction in late April—the government of Quebec released a plan for the deconfinement of the province, which also includes workplace safety measures for each sector that has been opened.

Different sectors were detailed in three stages: Open, announced, and pending. Those that are either open or announced for the Greater Montreal area are detailed below.

As for those that are pending, we're all in the same boat, waiting for health officials to make the call as to when this sector or that sector is safe to reopen. Currently, the following sectors have not been given the green light: Festivals and major events, regular and sleepover summer camps, and combat sports.

What is Quebec's COVID-19 alert system?

On September 8, the Quebec government rolled out a new COVID-19 alert system which puts different regions of the province under one of four stages of alert: Green, yellow, orange, and red. Each of these stages assumes that COVID-19 is present—don't go thinking that the green alert level assumes there's no virus—and each of them assumes different levels of restrictions on our activity.

In essence, here's what each level means:

Green / Level 1: Known as being in a state of 'vigilance', this indicates there's less spreading of the virus going on, but all basic measures dictated by the government—social distancing, wearing masks, washing one's hands—are followed in all settings. 

Yellow / Level 2: This is the 'early warning' stage, where the government is tracking increased transmission from the virus. The government notes that "basic measures will be strengthened and further action taken to promote and encourage compliance," such as more inspections of the public and private spaces, as well as greater crowd control in "various venues"—that's essentially the only difference between it and the Green / Level 1 warning.

Orange / Level 3: This is 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.

Red / Level 4:  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 they were possibilites, not blueprints.

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What level of alert is Montreal in right now?

According to the government's map of COVID-19 alerts across the province, Montreal is currently at:

RED / LEVEL 4 — ALERT

What does that mean? We've broken it down:

Private indoor and outdoor gatherings: There is a ban on home gatherings, with some exceptions like caregivers, services, support and planned labour, plus being allowed to visit and single visitors from another address visiting single individuals for the sake of mental health. If you live with someone else, forget the six or ten-person limits before and assume you can only hang out on the phone or via video chats.

Activities organized in a public setting: Places of worship and event venues for private and public gatherings—think funerals, weddings, and so forth—will be limited to 25 people. Masks are mandatory for protests (and that includes anti-maskers' gatherings). No team sports and activies are allowed.

Public venue halls and audiences: These are currently closed, and public gathering spaces like libraries, museums, and movie theatres are closed as well. People in public must remain at least two metres apart from one another while masks will be mandatory.

Bars, brasseries, taverns, casinos: All closed until further notice. Microbreweries and distilleries can remain open so long as nothing is consumed on the premises.

Restaurants: Restaurants can only remain open for takeout and delivery.

Stores: Businesses like beauty salons, hair salons, barbershops, estheticians and tattoo and body piercing shops will stay open, as well as hotels and retail.

Schools: Open, but the restrictions are a varied web of directives depending on the level of education; that's all listed here, on the Quebec government's page about red alert restrictions.

Gyms: Currently closed. Indoor sports facilities may remain open for individual activities however, but locker rooms can't be used or accessed by anyone except to use washrooms.

Inter-regional travel: Anyone from a red zone must avoid all non-essential travel to orange, yellow and green zone.

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): Open only for services that require an individual’s presence.

Montreal Skyline
Montreal Skyline
Photograph: Michael Descharles

Am I allowed to leave the house?

Yes, but the government stands by only going out for essential needs like groceries and pharmaceuticals, exercise and non-essential gatherings in common spaces.

Outdoors spaces have begun to open up in Montreal since May 21; outdoor team sports, pools used to be open to the public if they followed certain rules, but people are not currently permitted to do/use these.

That 2-metre distance applies to line-ups outside of stores, going to work, using public transportation and gatherings at homes where "a service or whose support is required." That said, you can't go to others' homes to hang out casually. Gatherings at private homes are not permitted.

As for indoor spaces—public hearing venues, cinemas, theatres, rented halls, places of worship, indoor audiovisual productions, indoor recordings and indoor amateur sports—are currently not permitted to be open with the exception of indoor sports if individuals are alone and socially-distanced.

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Can I visit my family and friends?

If you are meeting outside? No, it's prohibited, but you'll often find people going to parks and being outside together without receiving tickets. Despite this, if you choose to meet people outside, don't be surprised if the police ask you to disperse.

If you want to gather inside? Alone if you live alone and are receiving someone who also lives alone; the Quebec government is currently allowing this to help with the mental health issues rising from seclusion. It's recommended to always have the same person visiting in order to limit social contact with others, but yeah—no idea how the government and law enforcement is going to keep tabs on that.

On June 8, the Quebec government announced that it will allow indoor gatherings so long as they follow the same rules of outdoor gatherings, plus a few extra recommendations to consider. Most of Quebec began this on June 15, with the regions of Joliette and Montreal plus the city of L'Épiphanie following on June 22.

Now, however, Montreal's in red alert mode, and that means that indoor gatherings are not permitted (minus the one-person exception we mentioned above). Montrealers—and anyone else in a red zone—have been warned that they may be visited by the police and issued a fine; the visit can be permitted by police obtaining a telewarrant (essentially calling a judge for a warrant) to enter your home on the condition that your household is suspected of breaking the rule.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government is currently placing emphasis on social distancing in this case, so use alternative methods of communication and connection to stay in touch with family and friends. Try calling, connecting via video, texting, using social media; send prerecorded voice messages or videos, letters, postcards, or photos; arrange a time to say hello from your balcony or have dinner over video; send drawings or read bedtime stories to your kids through a platform like Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype.

Whatever you choose to do, remember: You can privately gather indoors and outdoors right now, provided you follow the restrictions.

What happens if I break the rules?

If you are caught breaking these directives from the provincial government by local police, you can be fined up to $1,546, but past crackdowns on parties (for example) have seen $1,000 per person involved.

As alerts escalate in regions, it's possible the police will be more likely to issue fines. Quebec Premier Legault said that the warrant process for police to enter homes and issue fines could be expedited.

Police have been authorized to use their own judgment to issue tickets of $1,000, but when you take additional fees involved with those tickets into account, the amount can go as high as the first amount mentioned above. Minors, however, can't be fined for more than $500.

To date, police have been instructed to carry on with ticketing violations, so follow the rules and avoid getting your bank account emptied by the state.

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Frank & Oak
Frank & Oak
Photograph: Frank & Oak / frankandoak.com

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

Here are the four basic ways to protect yourself:

1. Social distance yourself from others by remaining 2 metres apart. Do not hug, shake hands or kiss.

2. Wash your hands as frequently as possible with lukewarm water and soap, or sanitize them with a 60%-70% alcohol-based gel, foam or liquid sanitizer.

3. Wear a mask whether or not you are coughing or sneezing around other people; it helps to protect others if you are contagious, and helps if you are asymptomatic. If you want a non-medical mask for going outdoors, consult our guide on where to buy face masks in Montreal from local vendors.

4. Self-isolate yourself if you are returning from a trip abroad; stay at home for 14 days when you do.

Consult the complete guide from the government when you want more detailed answers concerning who is at risk; what the symptoms are; caring for children, the elderly and people with disabilities; and more.

Can I get tested in Montreal? Where?

You can find clinics that are currently offering testing both with and without appointements, as well as mobile testing units that provide walk-ins, via Santé Montréal. According to them, note that you can only be tested if the following applies: 

  • You have symptoms of flu, gastroenteritis or COVID-19 (fever, cough, difficulty breathing).
  • You don’t have symptoms but you’ve been in close contact with someone who has received a positive COVID-19 test result.

 

For mobile clinics, they are set up inside of STM buses and move around the city, with plans for more clinics to gradually open over time. Testing at mobile clinics is prioritized for people in the neighbourhood in which it is stationed, and each mobile clinic can do a maximum of 200 tests per day.

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Metro
Metro
Photograph: William Daigneault / Unsplash

How can I travel around Montreal safely?

Assuming you don't have a car of your own to use, there are several ways to get around Montreal safely.

Metro: Right now, wearing a face mask on public transportation in Montreal and across Quebec is mandatory. The use of the city's metro has been deemed an essential service since the beginning of the outbreak in Montreal. The schedules haven't changed, but you should note that face masks are encouraged; you can only use the ticket terminals to buy passes (no cash transactions); there are hand sanitizer dispensers in every station, but don't rely on them to always have sanitizer; respect social distancing while on the platform and while riding in train cars.

Bus: Like the metro, the essential service of buses has also been subject to the mandatory face mask rule. When you get on, note that only a rider with an impairment can board through the front doors, and everyone else must use the back door. You won't need to scan your ticket to ride, but you may be asked to prove you have a valid ticket. Don't sit in the seat behind the driver either, and try to plan your trips with the city's tracking app in advance in case a bus doesn't arrive on time (unlike the pandemic, some things don't change about the city). Eventually the city will roll out isolation booths for drivers and an app that lets you track the levels of crowding on buses.

Bike & Bixi: The City of Montreal generally encourages the use of bikes, and to prove it, it has announced plans to expand pedestrian and cycling routes by 327km this year as several of the city's main thoroughfares are becoming pedestrian-only. If you don't have a bike, Bixi's back as well until November with new sanitization measures, and they are offering free 30-day subscriptions for public healthcare workers.

Ridesharing: Uber and Eva are still in operation around Montreal, but these days, there are precautions you need to take. Note that you cannot ride in an Uber, for example, without having a face mask, your party is no more than two people, and it's recommended that you ride with the windows down.

Balsam Inn
Balsam Inn
Photograph: Alison Slattery

Are restaurants open in Montreal?

Restaurants are now permitted to open for delivery and takeout.

On June 8, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food André Lamontagne and the Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Solidarity Jean Boulet announced the plan for reopening restaurants in the province of Quebec. Provided that restaurants continue to follow public health directives, restaurants in Quebec were able to begin reopening on June 15, with the Greater Montreal area, the Joliette MRC and the city of L'Épiphanie following on June 22.

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Turbo Haüs Montreal
Turbo Haüs Montreal
Photograph: Susan Moss

Are bars open in Montreal?

You can't go to a bar right now, and this includes taverns and casinos. Microbreweries and distilleries can remain open to sell their wares, however, provided they don't allow you to consume food or drinks on the premises.

When the provincial government released its first plan for opening different sectors in phases, bars were placed under the to-be-determined banner of 'subsequent phases' at the bottom, while restaurants received placement in earlier phases. If you want booze from somewhere other than a bar, you can get it from restaurants that are able to sell it, order delivery from the SAQ, or hit up your local depanneur. 

Magasinage / Shopping à Montréal
Magasinage / Shopping à Montréal
Photograph: © Tourisme Québec / André Rider

Are stores open in Montreal?

You can go shopping in Montreal. That means just as many smaller retail spots are able to open as large department stores and shopping malls. You are recommended to do it alone, however; don't get the squad together for a shopping spree.

Shops that have chosen to open may have their own requests in addition to the government's guidelines (which the city has deployed inspectors for), so be sure to follow the rules. Face masks are encouraged, and if disposable ones are used, they should be disposed of properly; don't litter!

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Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Photograph: Ewien van Bergeijk - Kwant / Unsplash

Are Montreal hair salons and barbers open?

Yes.

In his press conference on May 29, premier François Legault announced that hair salons, barbershops, estheticians, tattoo and body piercing shops could reopen in Montreal on June 15 (no spas have not yet been given the green light completely).

Currently recommendations include measures like limiting the number of clients in a business at one time; the use of masks, visors, gloves, jackets, antibacterial hand soaps, and sterilizers; plexiglass for protective measures; social distancing when possible; clients will have to wait outside while waiting for appointments; prices may go up to coincide with the cost of protective equipment; and manicure and pedicure businesses are requiring disposable nail kits to be purchased.

Monster Gym
Monster Gym
Photograph: Monster Gym / @monstergymmtl

Are gyms open in Montreal?

Nope, they're closed.

Because gyms are large spaces where people can gather and sweat it out, they were originally pushed into the to-be-determined section of the government's deconfinement plan.

Right now, fitness centres and gyms must now close their doors for a minimum of 20, and that will be reassessed on October 28.

If you haven't asked when gyms will reopen in Montreal but still want to workout, many gyms are offering courses online for free or have made their equipment available for rent. 

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Can I go to my place of worship?

Places of worship are currently open, provided they stick to a limit of 25 people in a given space with social distancing measures. This rule also applies to weddings and funerals.

They used to be in the to-be-determined section of the government's deconfinement plan. Contact your local place of worship to inquire if any services, sermons and so forth are being offered in-person or online through video chats like Skype, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger.

Are schools open?

All schools have opened, but with major restrictions.

Currently:

All school staff—no matter the education level—must wear a mask at all times, and visitors are kept to a minimum; extracurricular activities like field trips are suspends, as well as room loans and rentals. Classes are expected to maintain stable group that don't change, and if they need to cross over, social distancing should occur.

At the preschool and elementary level, classes stick together, but no physical distancing is required. Groups can intermingle but must stay two metres apart in common area, and daycares are organized in a similar fashion.

In secondary (high) school, students need to wear face masks at all times both in and outside their school, and secondary III, IV and V-level students will be attending class in-person every second day. Depending on the course, distance education should eb available, but that depends on different schools and circumstances.

For adult general education and vocational training, students must wear face masks except when seated in the classroom, but staff needs to wear them at all times (unless they remain two metres' distance from students). Distance learning should be available. It's a similar situation in CEGEPS and universities, but institutions have stress that classes should be entirely remote; in addition, internships and labs can move forward and libraries' circulation desks and individual workspace can remain open.

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Montreal by Car
Montreal by Car
Photograph: Geoffrey Chevtchenko / Unsplash

Can I take a day trip from Montreal?

Right now? You can, but the Quebec government stronlgy discourages all non-essential travel.

The government began by opening different regions as time went on, but it's not recommended to travel from one region of the province to another unless it's essential.

The government of Quebec has asked that we avoid travelling as much as possible from one region or city to another, no matter the stage of alert we're in.

As mentioned above, the Quebec government has strongly urged all red zone occupants to stay home.

Meanwhile, the phased opening of Quebec's national parks began on May 20, visitors can expect to take advantage of parks' hiking and biking trails, as well as lakes for fishing during the day; however, buildings that handle services like washrooms and the sale of access passes won't be accessible.

As of June 1, campgrounds in Quebec can reopen as the Société des establishments de plein air du Québec (SÉPAQ) has been given the green light to reopen all kinds of campsites, chalets, ready-to-camp units, yurts and rustic camps outside of the Greater Montreal area and Joliette. That means there won't be camping access to Oka National Park, the Boucherville Islands or Mont-Saint-Hilaire until further notice.

If you're thinking of heading out to Nord-du-Québec or the Nunavik and Cree Territory of James Bay regions and territories, expect checkpoints as only essential travel is currently authorized for humanitarian reasons, to work where activities have not been suspended, or to obtain services that individuals’ health status requires. Police may ask you to provide documents like a proof of residence at your destination, a driver's licence, or a document provided by an employer.

Travellers who have to use the road and ferry to travel to and from Îles-de-la-Madeleine must now fill out a form to be allowed to cross New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

The US-Canada border is currently closed for non-essential travel, but as of June 9, the Canadian government is now allowing family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents living in Canada to receive family members.

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