Stores Outside Montreal Kick Off Quebec Reopening Next Week

Quebec Reopening Starts Next Week with Stores Outside Montreal

(Bloomberg) -- Quebec unveiled the first steps of a gradual restart of its economy, with retailers everywhere except Montreal reopening as early as next week.

The province, which accounts for more than half of Canada’s deaths from Covid-19, is letting stores outside of Quebec’s biggest city resume business on May 4 -- as long as they have a street entrance, because enclosed shopping centers remain closed. Retailers in Montreal and its suburbs, along with all of the province’s manufacturers, will be allowed to open a week later, the government said Tuesday.

“Our challenge is to gradually restart the economy without restarting the pandemic,” Premier Francois Legault said during a press conference. The government will “analyze the effect” on the outbreak as workers return, he said.

The plan to reopen comes even with the daily death rate still in the dozens, reflecting what Legault describes as “two worlds.” The vast majority of the deceased are seniors living in long-term care facilities, where the virus has spread rapidly. Outside of those, the situation appears under control and lockdown measures are bearing fruit.

Legault’s approach contrasts with that of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who said Monday the phased reopening of Canada’s biggest province will last for many weeks, but refused to set firm dates.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that provinces will go their own way on starting back up. “Governments will move at their own pace to safely restore economic activity within their jurisdictions, while protecting the health of Canadians,” he said in a joint statement with the premiers.

Quebec manufacturers will need to limit the number of employees for the first two weeks, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said, adding that detailed protocol manuals will be shared with employers. The construction sector, which is already partially authorized to work, will completely reopen on May 11 to include infrastructure.

About 1.2 million Quebeckers out of a population of 8.5 million had to temporarily stop work, Fitzgibbon said. Quebec’s unemployment rate jumped from 4.5% in February to 8.1% in March.

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