In the wake of record-high COVID-19 infections, Quebec is making a change for liquor and cannabis stores, with the government now requiring vaccine passports for those shopping at the stores of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) and the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), according to a report from Le Journal de Montréal.
“If the government goes in this direction, we will apply this sanitary measure—as we have done with all other efforts deployed since the beginning of the pandemic,” said SAQ spokesperson Yann Langlais Plante. The government has not issued an official decree, but Plante confirmed Crown corporations have been in talks with officials on the topic.
The Journal de Montréal report cites anonymous government sources, referencing that the decision on barring unvaccinated Quebecers from liquor and cannabis stores will be made this week, as public pressure increases for the government to tighten regulations for those refusing vaccination against the virus.
It’s the latest in a series of moves to slow the transmission of COVID-19 in the wake of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
In Quebec, the vaccine passport is already required to access non-essential businesses, like theaters, conventions and conferences, places of worship and sports facilities. Non-essential services also cannot be open on Sundays, and places like bars, restaurant dining rooms, casinos and more are closed.
At the time of the report, there was still discussion as to how shops would go about enforcing the regulations, like when visitors would be required to present their vaccine passport. According to the report, neither the SAQ nor the SQDC wanted to give more details on the terms of the new rules.
While customers will need to be vaccinated to access liquor and cannabis stores in Quebec, the same does not hold true to employees, with the government reluctant to impose the same regulations on workers and voicing it does not intend to force officials to be vaccinated.
Though, this doesn’t hold true across Canadian provinces: In Ontario, employees of the LCBO (the Ontario equivalent of the SAQ) must provide proof of vaccination to work. The Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), which has many employees of the SAQ and DQDC as members, says it has implemented a campaign to educate its members on vaccination.
“It is the employer or the government who can decide on compulsory vaccination,” the central union said in a written statement.
“What a union can do is put in place an information strategy for its members to encourage vaccination. By email, video and press release, they were encouraged to get their first, second or third dose of vaccine,” the CSN continued.
Both the liquor and cannabis industries saw record increases in sales and profits during the pandemic, in Quebec and regions around the world, and some say the measure is coming too late, like infectious diseases specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton.
“It’s analogous to trying to put out a raging forest fire with a glass of water,” he told CTV News. “Unless the government has access to public health data that there have been a massive number of transmissions linked to SAQs or SQDCs, which I doubt, adding a measure like that now would not be expected to have any more than a minor impact.”
Oughton said officials had enough data as early as December to make these moves, but it took weeks before any restrictions were put into place.
“That delay is now resulting in hospitalizations, ICU admission, shutdowns in elective procedures,” he said.
Quebec is also making headlines for enforcing a second COVID-19-related curfew, starting at 10p.m. and ending at 5a.m. each day, along with prohibiting in-home gatherings.