Quebec’s health minister, Christian Dubé, announced on Thursday that, as part of broader efforts to reduce COVID-19 in the province, only vaccinated individuals will be permitted to enter government-run cannabis dispensaries and liquor shops.
The move comes as Quebec, like other cities in Canada and the United States, is seeing cases rise rapidly. Though Quebec’s vaccination rate is near 80% — one of the highest in the world— hospitalizations are spiking, especially among the unvaccinated and threaten to overwhelm hospitals.
With 20,000 healthcare workers absent due to COVID-19 and new infections now hovering around 15,000 per day, Dubé warned that Quebec is facing the “worst combination” possible: more people in need of care, and fewer people available to treat them.
“The situation at the moment is very, very, very difficult,” Dubé said in a news conference reported by the Montreal Gazette.
Dubé said about 40% of new hospitalizations are people who were admitted for something else, but tested positive upon arrival, adding that the extra burden of caring for an infected patient puts added pressure on the network.
“Even if they came in for something else, they need to be treated differently,” Dubé said. “It complicates the task and it remains very difficult to treat everyone, regardless of why they were admitted.”
In addition to the vaccine requirement for cannabis and liquor shops, which goes into effect on January 18, Quebec already requires people to present proof of vaccination when entering healthcare facilities, indoor sports venues, movie theaters, bars and nightclubs.
Dubé said Quebec’s latest preventive measure is not meant to “piss off” the unvaccinated, as French President Emmanuel Macron recently pledged to do.
“It would be nice” to make them angry, Dubé said, but Quebec’s policies are intended to reduce their contact with the immunized population — and to protect the unvaccinated from one another.
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