Special permission for gatherings of 250 people granted by Quebec, within the framework of certain specific activities, is received with dismay by restaurant owners, gym owners and other confined entrepreneurs.
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“It’s completely unfair,” says Benoit Girouard, spokesperson for the Entrepreneurs en Action group in Quebec. His group claims to represent nearly 880 entrepreneurs from all backgrounds affected by health measures related to COVID-19.
A ministerial decree of October 22, which has so far gone unnoticed, allows gatherings of up to 250 people, even in the red zone, for certain meetings deemed essential.
Faced with the confusion created by the publication of this information on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health issued a statement to specify that “only organized activities necessary and even essential to the pursuit of the activities of a public or private organization could be authorized in very rare and exceptional situations ”. Participants must also be able to maintain a distance between them of two meters.
For example, this snag in health measures could be allowed to hold “boards of directors, negotiations in the public sector, meetings of mediators”, specified the Minister of Tourism, Caroline Proulx on Twitter.
The Association Restauration Québec (ARQ) considers that the measure also applies to employee meetings, union meetings and professional orders. “But we are not talking about office parties,” underlines François Meunier, vice-president of public and government affairs at the ARQ.
“Events of an event, social or business tourism nature are still prohibited,” Minister Proulx also specified.
Why not the restaurants?
Both the ARQ and Center Expo Cogeco, in Drummondville, pointed out to their members and clients that the distribution of a meal by staff members is permitted.
“What is the difference between a professional order [qui tient une rencontre] and a restaurateur who has forty seats with Plexiglas? ”asks Benoit Girouard. Several entrepreneurs he represents are struggling to survive, he pleads.
- Listen to the Minister of Toutism Caroline Proulx with Benoit Dutrizac on QUB Radio:
As for the ARQ, we continue to believe that it would be possible to operate restaurants while respecting strict rules. “If public health requires it, we can have more restrictive measures, such as welcoming couples only, reducing the opening hours or the sale of alcohol,” says François Meunier.
But above all, restaurant owners want to know what to expect, while Prime Minister François Legault hinted Tuesday that business closures could be extended for another 28 days. The number of COVID-19 cases, argues Mr. Legault has reached a plateau, but is not decreasing.
“We want predictability,” says Meunier. If the shutdown is to continue for a few months, the government must notify the owners and provide financial assistance accordingly. “But that takes aid programs that are really structuring. We can’t let the industry drown like that for months on end, ”says François Meunier.