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Shoppers entering Quebec’s big-box stores now must have COVID-19 vaccine passports

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Starting Monday, Quebecers will have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter big-box stores with a surface area of more than 1,500 square metres, except for grocery stores or pharmacies.

The Quebec government says it put this measure in place to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant.

Premier François Legault specified on Jan. 13 that two doses of a vaccine would be required to enter large establishments, though that will eventually change to three doses.

For a sector hard hit by the labour shortage, the Retail Council of Canada said it worries checking passports will yet be another burden on businesses.

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“The real challenge today is to manage the public reaction because there will be longer lineups in front of some stores that offer essential products,” explained RCC president Michel Rochette.

Commercial establishments in Quebec that were forced to close their doors during the last three Sundays can now reopen.

That measure was also put in place to try to limit the meteoric rise in hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

Ten days ago, Premier Legault said he hopes to be able to reopen restaurants, theatres, cinemas and more in the coming weeks.

In addition, the Legault government says it is considering imposing a fine on people who refuse to be vaccinated for non-medical reasons, but the premier says there will be a debate in the National Assembly on the issue before any decision is made official.

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The bill could be tabled as early as next month.

— This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 24, 2022. With files from CTV News’ Ian Wood.

ANALYSIS: NEW VACCINE RESTRICTIONS

by Genevieve Beauchemin

Quebec bureau chief, CTV National News

Quebec has closed more doors to the unvaccinated. The latest target of the province’s strategy is big box stores.

As of this morning, Walmart, Costco and Canadian Tire shoppers must flash a vaccine passport to pass through the entrance.

Retailers say this could lead to long lineups as they scramble to reassign workers to check documents in the midst of a labour shortage across the country. Though many shoppers applauded the strategy this morning, saying, “At least you know everyone that goes there is vaccinated, so there is more safety.”

This follows a series of steps by the provincial government, including a looming tax for those without their shots. That followed imposing mandatory vaccine requirement in order to shop in liquor and cannabis stores.

However, the province is also deploying another strategy. The province’s deputy minister of health and social services, Lionel Carmant, has been charged with convincing those who have yet to get their shots to roll up their sleeves.

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The measures he announced include a phone line for hesitant Quebecers to speak to a professional about vaccines, pop-up clinics in areas where uptake is low and community outreach.

Critics say that has already been done, but Carmant insisted while he is not trying to “reinvent the wheel,” he wants to boost ongoing initiatives.

To date, 92 per cent of adults in Quebec have received a first dose, and Carmant says not all the others are anti-vaxxers. Some are fearful, hesitant, and he is hoping to reach out to some among vulnerable and marginalized groups.

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