Ban on 250-person gatherings stands, despite 'erroneous information,' Quebec clarifies

(Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash)

After a COVID-19 rumour circulated in Quebec media Wednesday morning, the province's health authorities swiftly debunked it, saying that gatherings of 250 people are not allowed in red zones, despite "erroneous information" reported.

The ban is in place for all gatherings of that size except for "specific exceptional and very rare situations," said a release from the province's health department.

It was reported by at least two outlets on Wednesday morning that some types of 250-person gatherings were to be allowed again in Quebec, despite a high plateau of COVID-19 cases and many concerns going into the holiday period.

But it all came from a misunderstanding, according to the president of the Association des Professionels de Congrès du Québec, a group representing those in the business convention industry.

Someone at the Quebec restaurants association, they said, had misunderstood the wording of a ministerial decree from October. The misunderstanding circulated into different industries and eventually into the media.

After the province clarified that decree on Wednesday, however, it still isn't entirely clear.

The province said in its written statement that in red zones such as Montreal, gatherings are still banned in rented and community halls, as well as audiences in indoor public spaces.

No activity linked to "business tourism" is allowed, either, including conventions, non-essential business meetings that could be done virtually, and trade exhibitions, the release said.

The release didn't clearly lay out when exceptions could be made, saying that "only organized activities necessary and even essential for the pursuit of the activities of a public or private organization could be authorized in very rare and exceptional situations."

In those cases, the number of attendees must be kept to the minimum necessary, and social distancing can't be abandoned -- two metres must be maintained between all people. 

- With reporting from Stephane Giroux


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