Quebec rule allowing certain essential public gatherings prompts criticism, concern

COVID

A public health rule quietly adopted last month by the Quebec government allows for certain gatherings of as many as 250 people with government permission, and under certain criteria and strict public health measures - even in Red Zones.

"This is a disappointing decision and I cannot support it," said Dr. Donald Sheppard who teaches at McGill University in the departments of Medecine as well as Microbiology and Immunology. 

"I think with the numbers as high as they are, with on average 20 deaths a day in the province of Quebec, we need to be tightening our restrictions and not discuss any form of loosening them."

Quebec Public Health says large social gatherings and parties are still not allowed but union and board meetings, university exams, and other such gatherings deemed to be essential would be allowed under the rule. And even with all the public health measures in place,

"I absolutely think they are not essential. We've seen how effective psychotherapy can be over Zoom and remote delivery. It is impossible for me to believe that a board can't manage it," said Sheppard who is also director of McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity.

"The only way to be safe is to ensure you do not have people from different households in shared indoor spaces. Those are the clear recommendations from every major public health guideline in the world."

While Sheppard said he can see why restaurant and gym owners are frustrated, they rank right up there with any public indoor gatherings.

"Neither is a good idea right now - with over a 1000 cases a day and 20 deaths and hospitals filling up," said Sheppard in an interview with CJAD 800.

Sheppard said the Quebec government needs to be more coherent when it comes to public health measures during this pandemic.

"It's a huge lost opportunity on behalf of the government and the ministry here. People don't understand when there are confusing and conflicting regulations and it undermines confidence in what we are telling them," said Sheppard.

"It becomes very hard for people to make rational decisions on this when they don't see any rationality on the part of their government."

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