Planned karaoke ban in Quebec will forbid singing at about 500 bars

Mitchell Freeman represents Canada at the Karaoke World Championships, Nov. 7, 2014

By Selena Ross

MONTREAL — Quebec is officially hitting the brakes on the province's dedicated karaoke scene, preparing to indefinitely ban singing at about 500 bars.

The decision comes in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak in Quebec City that began at a karaoke bar and has, as of Tuesday, spread to 68 people, with 18 secondary cases in the community, including four schools.

The head of a provincial association of bars, Renaud Poulin heard the news on Thursday morning from Quebec's health minister, Christian Dubé, he said.

The government hasn't yet made the decision public. Poulin said that the reasoning was simply the riskiness of singing: it throws droplets of saliva more than two metres and has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of spreading the virus.

Though karaoke wasn’t officially banned before now, authorities expressed frustration when the Quebec City outbreak began in late August, suggesting that people were behaving irresponsibly.

“It's as if people forgot the virus is still with us,” Dr. Jacques Girard, the public health director for Quebec City, said last week.

"Personally, I would not go to a karaoke. For me, karaoke is a high-risk activity."

The bar where the outbreak began is called Bar Kirouac. Dubé slammed the bar and its patrons last week after watching video showing people sharing microphones.

But Girard also noted that "all singing poses a problem" -- something various authorities have echoed, including Quebec's public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, as they've mulled whether they need to take action ahead of other times of potential singing, including the holidays.

The Quebec City outbreak began on Aug. 23 and was also worsened by the fact that some of the patrons of Bar Kirouac later went to another karaoke bar in the area, the bar owners told media.

At this point, the infections directly linked to those two bars had reached 80 by Tuesday.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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