July 9, 2020 / 9:14 PM / a month ago

Canada's Quebec cracks down on crowding at bars after outbreak

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Quebec, Canada’s hardest-hit province from the coronavirus pandemic, said on Thursday it would crack down on bar crowding, following a recent outbreak at a suburban Montreal pub and reports of overcrowded nightclub floors.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the province would now require bars to stop selling alcohol at midnight. Closing time is moved up to 1 a.m. from 3 a.m. Nightclub dance floors must remain free of dancers and bars will only be allowed to admit half capacity, he said.

The new requirements, which take effect on Friday, followed reports on social media of crowding in Montreal pubs after Quebec started easing restrictions last month. Local media recently reported cases of “out of control dance floors in Montreal.”

Quebec accounts for more than half of Canada’s 106,434 cases and 8,737 deaths from COVID-19. In recent weeks, infections and COVID-19 deaths have moderated.

The province’s public health officials recently called on patrons of a suburban Montreal restaurant and bar on June 30 to be tested for COVID-19 after several people with the respiratory disease were discovered at the venue.

A Quebec association representing bars, brasseries and taverns has warned the move will bankrupt hundreds of bars.

“This is nothing to do against bars, this is nothing to do against bar owners,” Dubé told reporters.

“We cannot accept this after all the sacrifices made by Quebecers.”

This week, Dubé and Quebec’s public health director said they would not hesitate to shut down bars altogether to stop outbreaks.

The province supports creation of a voluntary registry where clients could list contact information for public health tracing purposes in case of an outbreak.

Dr. David Buckeridge, a McGill University epidemiologist, said bars should not have reopened.

“From an epidemiological perspective, there’s no question about it — I would not open bars,” he told the Montreal Gazette.

Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal

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