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Montréal Skyline
Photograph: Stéphan Poulin

When will Montreal reopen? Here's what you can and can't do right now

Here's everything you can and can't do in the city, and how to protect yourself, as we track when Montreal will reopen

By JP Karwacki
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Since May, restrictions have begun to be lifted in different sectors of Montreal as the government of Quebec's deconfinement process slowly rolls out. Make no mistake, however: We still have a long way to go before things return to normal. So when will Montreal reopen?

The short answer is: Gradually.

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

When will Montreal reopen?

In a word: Gradually. 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 has since released a plan for the deconfinement of the province, which also includes workplace safety measures for each sector that has been opened.

Different sectors are 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.

Generally speaking, anything else is able to open provided that there is a limit of 50 people in attendance and social distancing guidelines are imposed.

What phase of reopening is Montreal in right now?

According to the government documentation mentioned above, the province is in the final phase of deconfinement, but things are poised to backtrack at just about any time. It largely depends on the new case numbers, hospitalizations and death rates. 

On June 17, Quebec's national public health director Horacio Arruda was quoted as saying the following: “Honestly, I think there will be a second wave (in Quebec). Yesterday I said there’s a 95 per cent chance. I hope I am wrong. I hope the chances are 50 or 40 per cent."

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Parc Jarry
Parc Jarry
Photograph: Daphné Caron

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—particularly Montreal parks.

If you do wish to gather, the province has stated that it allows gatherings of up to 10 people from a maximum of three (3) households. People not from the same household should keep a distance of at least 2 metres between one another, and the use of face masks is encouraged.

Outdoors spaces have begun to open up in Montreal since May 21, and now outdoor team sports, pools open to the public and activities are now allowed if they follow certain rules.

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; you should do so outside.

As for indoor spaces—public hearing venues, cinemas, theatres, rented halls, places of worship, indoor audiovisual productions, indoor recordings and indoor amateur sports—are permitted to occur if there is a limit of 50 people.

Can I visit my family and friends?

If you are meeting outside or inside in gatherings of no more than 10 from a maximum of three households? Yes.

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. First, most of Quebec can begin this on June 15, with the regions of Joliette and Montreal plus the city of L'Épiphanie following on June 22.

You could also meet up in restaurants in all of these areas on those respective dates.

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.

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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 anecdotal reports to Time Out Montreal have suggested that the police are getting lax towards the public on this front.

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 amount above. Minors, however, can't be fined for more than $500.

The SPVM has been patrolling outdoor gathering areas to ensure that people are staying two metres apart and following the guidelines for the amount of people in an outdoor gathering—sometimes these interactions result in little more than a friendly reminder.

However, there are people who have violated these rules and have been ticketed. To date, police have not been instructed to cease ticketing violations, so follow the rules and avoid getting your bank account emptied by the state.

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.

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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.

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 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.

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Balsam Inn
Balsam Inn
Photograph: Alison Slattery

When will restaurants reopen in Montreal?

Restaurants are now permitted to open with limited capacity, but not every restaurant is open; be sure to call ahead if you know where you want to go, and even if it is open, don't expect to get in without a reservation.

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 follow public health directives, restaurants in Quebec will be 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.

Turbo Haüs Montreal
Turbo Haüs Montreal
Photograph: Susan Moss

When will bars reopen in Montreal?

You can currently go to a bar right now, but expect the following: Limited seating capacity, you may need to make a reservation, be prepared to give your contact details if the bar is collecting information for contact tracing, and above all, no dancing. Stay seated, enjoy your drink, and don't be an asshole.

When the provincial government released its 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. 

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

When will stores reopen 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.

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!

Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Photograph: Ewien van Bergeijk - Kwant / Unsplash

When will Montreal hair salons and barbers reopen?

In his press conference on May 29, premier François Legault announced that hair salons, barbershops, estheticians, tattoo and body piercing shops will 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.

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Monster Gym
Monster Gym
Photograph: Monster Gym / @monstergymmtl

When will gyms reopen in Montreal and what will it be like to work out?

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

Now, however, you can go to a gym if it's open. You can likely expect a lot of extra sanitization, no group classes, no access to locker rooms or showers, and more. 

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. 

When can I go back to my place of worship?

Places of worship are currently open, provided they stick to a limit of 50 people in a given space with social distancing measures.

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.

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When will schools reopen?

It's uncertain what will happen in the fall for all schools, especially since that is expected to be the beginning of the next flu season.

On May 14, 11 days before Quebec's initial plan to reopen schools on May 25, premier François Legault announced that schools in the greater Montreal area—all its 82 municipalities—will remain closed until September.

As of June 1, daycares in the Montreal region have reopened at a reduced capacity with physical distancing in place between children, and educators are wearing protective equipment to safely interact with young children.

As for higher education in high schools, colleges and universities, they won't be reopening until late August, but teachers at those levels have been since encouraged (or told) to teach remotely, sometimes with remote teaching being the only source of education moving into the fall semester. For example, McGill University announced that "Fall 2020 courses will be offered primarily through remote delivery platforms."

Parc du Mont-Tremblant
Parc du Mont-Tremblant
Photograph: Steve Deschênes

Can I take a day trip from Montreal?

The government began by opening different regions as time went on, but it would now be difficult to find a section of the province or Canada as a whole that isn't open.

However, the government of Quebec has asked that we avoid travelling as much as possible from one region or city to another. 

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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