COVID-19 updates, Nov. 10: CAQ state of emergency a ‘denial of democracy’ and abusive, opposition says

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Quebec is expanding booster shots to more groups next week. Here’s what you need to know.

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Updated throughout the day on Wednesday, Nov. 10. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Dr. Horacio Arruda to testify at coroner’s inquest Thursday
  • Boosters will eventually be available for all Quebecers, expert says
  • Ontario pauses plan to lift capacity limits in some settings that require vax proof
  • As cases rise, Manitoba opens booster shots to all adults
  • What you need to know about Quebec’s booster shot rollout
  • CAQ state of emergency a ‘denial of democracy’ and abusive, opposition says
  • Germany recommends only Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for under-30s
  • Saskatchewan creating protest buffer zones around hospitals to stop harassment
  • Maiden names on vaccine documents: reassuring news and some tips
  • Quebec reports 1 death as cases jump to 672
  • Legault’s battle with family doctors: What you need to know
  • B.C. to offer single-dose J&J vaccine to unvaccinated health-care workers first
  • Working at a CHSLD pays worse than flipping burgers: union rep
  • A guide to Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine passport
  • A guide to COVID-19 vaccinations in Quebec
  • Here are the current pandemic restrictions in Montreal and Quebec
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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5 p.m.

Thanks for reading

I’ll be back tomorrow with another live blog.

In the meantime, you can follow all our coverage via the coronavirus page .

My previous COVID-19 live blogs are available here .


4:40 p.m.

Dr. Horacio Arruda to testify at coroner’s inquest Thursday

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, will make a highly anticipated appearance tomorrow (Nov. 11) at the coroner’s inquest into deaths at long-term care homes (CHSLDs) during the first wave of COVID-19.

Arruda and Dr. Richard Massé, an advisor to the public health department, are both scheduled to testify.

“I expect Dr. Arruda to be completely transparent about what happened and without political influence in the answers he will provide,” Liberal Leader Dominique Anglaide said via Twitter today.

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Québec solidaire health critic Vincent Marissal told reporters this morning that he wants “precise answers on decisions that were taken by public health.”

Marissal added: “For example, why did we allow staff to come and go between certain establishments? How come we didn’t seem to buy into the fact that COVID-19 is an aerosol? That is still quite surprising, which means that we skimped on the N95s.

“I presume that Mr. Arruda will have answers or, in any case, I hope he will have answers for us on that.”

The coroner’s inquest is being live-streamed via Microsoft Teams. For more information, visit this page on the coroner’s website.


4:25 p.m.

Boosters will eventually be available for all Quebecers, expert says

From The Canadian Press:

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For the general population, protection from two doses after six months remains high — especially against severe infection and death, according to Dr. Andre Veillette, an immunologist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute. Veillette, however, said protection will inevitably start to decline.

“Some people will say it’s not a problem, because of what we call memory cells,” Veillette said in an interview on Monday. “That’s when your antibodies are low, then the memory cells are activated if you get infected, and then a week later, they will make a lot of antibodies.”

The problem, he said, is that for some people — and maybe eventually for everybody — a week of infection is too long to wait for the antibodies to kick in.

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Veillette said Quebec’s immediate priority should be identifying high-risk groups and giving them third doses.

He also said he believes boosters will eventually be available for all Quebecers, even for young people.

“We have billions of doses in Ottawa waiting on shelves, and tens of millions more have been bought for next year by the government,” Veillette said. “The vaccines are available.”


4:20 p.m.

Ontario pauses plan to lift capacity limits in some settings that require vax proof

Ontario will keep capacity limits in place for at least a month longer than planned in some settings where proof of vaccination is required, following a rise in COVID-19 cases, The Canadian Press reports.

Night clubs, strip clubs, sex clubs and bathhouses were expected to remove caps on the number of patrons next week, but the province announced Wednesday that the restrictions will stay in place for at least another 28 days while it monitors health indicators.

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“Because Ontario is seeing an increase in some of its key indicators … and out of an abundance of caution, we are pausing the next step of the plan to reopen Ontario and manage COVID-19 for the long-term,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore told a news conference.

Ontario’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases sat at 503 on Wednesday, compared to 379 a week earlier.

The province has said hospital and intensive care capacity remains stable, but the positivity rate is increasing, as is the average number of people that a person with COVID-19 will infect.

Moore had predicted a rise in cases as fall set in and said that so long as everyone keeps public health measures in mind, there’s no need for alarm.

“I am happy at present with the trends that we have, limiting the effect on our health-care system, but we have to maintain those for the coming weeks and months,” he said.

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Public health experts told The Canadian Press this week that the province’s move to lift capacity limits in restaurants and stadiums, combined with the cooler weather, could be behind the increased spread.

Moore also sought to reassure Ontarians that the province wouldn’t reverse course on reopening, and would avoid the sorts of provincewide school closures that became a fixture of the last academic year.


3:20 p.m.

Musicians will be back in some métro stations by the end of the month

Live music, banned due to the pandemic, will be back in the métro by the end of the month.

The Société de transport de Montréal announced Wednesday that buskers will gradually be allowed to return to performance stations Nov. 29.

Read our full story.

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2:55 p.m.

As cases rise, Manitoba opens booster shots to all adults

Manitoba’s chief public health officer says more public health restrictions are coming as COVID-19 cases go up, The Canadian Press is reporting.

Dr. Brent Roussin says the numbers are on a trajectory that could lead to hospitals being overwhelmed unless things change.

Manitoba already requires people to be fully immunized to get into venues, including cinemas, restaurants and concert halls.

Roussin won’t reveal details, but says new measures are going to be required and will come shortly.

Manitoba is reporting 143 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths.

It has the second-highest infection rate among the provinces.

The government has also announced that all adults are now eligible for a third vaccine booster, as long as six months have passed since the second dose.

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2:25 p.m.

People ‘unvaccinated by choice’ in Singapore must now pay for COVID-19 care

The Singaporean government says it will no longer cover the medical costs of people “unvaccinated by choice,” who make up the bulk of remaining new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the city-state.

Read our full story.


2:25 p.m.

Australian nurse inserted needle, pretended to inject COVID-19 vaccine, police say

Police in Western Australia have charged a nurse with fraud after she was discovered pretending to vaccinate her friends and family.

Christina Hartmann Benz, 51, has been charged with one count of gaining benefit by fraud after her supervisor observed her inserting a vaccine needle into the teenager of a friend on Sunday without dispensing the vaccine.

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Read our full story.


2:25 p.m.

Chinese journalist detained in Wuhan for initial reporting on pandemic is ‘close to death’

A Chinese citizen journalist who was imprisoned for covering Wuhan’s dire COVID-10 crisis at the height of the pandemic is “close to death” after an ongoing hunger strike, her family says.

Read our full story


1:50 p.m.

What you need to know about Quebec’s booster shot rollout

Quebec has updated its vaccination website to reflect the expansion of booster shots to more groups , including people over 70 and those who have received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Here’s what you need to know:

Who should get the booster shot?

The province says a COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccine booster dose is recommended for:

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  • Residents in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs).
  • People living in private seniors’ residences (RPAs).
  • People living in settings with a high percentage of vulnerable older adults such as intermediate and family-type resources (RI-RTFs).
  • People aged 80 and over living in the community.

In addition, people aged 70 to 79 living in the community may also receive a booster dose if they wish.

Quebec is already administering boosters in seniors’ residences and long-term care homes (CHSLDs), and to people who are immunocompromised or on dialysis.

Why is Quebec extending booster shots to more groups?

“Even though these individuals have adequate protection from two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, they are very likely to develop complications if they contract the disease,” the Health Department said. 

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“In addition, a slight increase in COVID-19 cases has been observed among these individuals. For these reasons, our experts recommend that these individuals receive a COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccine booster dose. New data show better protection with a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.”

The government noted that a booster dose of COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccine is also recommended for those who were vaccinated only with the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), AstraZeneca, or Covishield vaccine to increase their protection against COVID-19.”

When should the booster shot be administered?

The recommended interval between the last COVID-19 vaccine dose and the booster dose is six months or more.

How do you get the booster shot?

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Quebecers can book an appointment online by selecting “COVID-19 Vaccine – 3rd dose” on the Clic Santé platform.

Appointment schedule for booster doses:

  • Nov. 16: 80 and over
  • Nov. 18: 75 and over
  • Nov. 23: 70 and over
  • Nov. 25: People who have received two doses of AstraZeneca or Covishield: 

For CHSLDs and seniors’ residences, mobile clinics are being deployed on-site. That way, individuals and their loved ones do not have to make any arrangements or appointments, the government says.


1:15 p.m.

CAQ state of emergency a ‘denial of democracy’ and abusive, opposition says

The opposition Liberals are set to table a motion in the National Assembly today that calls for the Coalition Avenir Québec government to lift the state of emergency it imposed when the pandemic started in March 2020.

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“There is clearly a denial of democracy under the current system,” Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade told reporters in Quebec City this morning.

She said Premier François Legault must stop using the pandemic as an excuse to make decisions without oversight from the opposition.

The rules have allowed the government to spend excessively on pandemic advertising and to avoid normal public tender rules, she said.

“We are asking for the lifting of the (state of emergency), of this way of functioning, in order to be able to return to a healthy democracy,” Anglade said.

“In Quebec, right now, the way the government operates, they have decree after decree that they present in order to manage their decisions,” she said.

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“So they don’t have to come back to the National Assembly and explain what they do. So they can have contracts with companies, they can make decisions that affect people, without having to answer any questions.

“This is not the normal way of operating. It’s never been the normal way of operating.”

Anglade said the pandemic caused an exceptional situation.

But “right now, we’re getting out of the pandemic. Kids are going to school, companies are operating, people are actually going to karaoke. There is no reason why the government itself still governs with decrees.”

She said under the Legault government, “when things don’t work, they blame the previous government, they blame the pandemic, they blame the doctors, they blame the unions, but they never blame themselves.

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“They never look at themselves in the mirror to say: ‘Maybe it’s our way, our approach.’ And the approach is a way of dictating to people how we should be doing things, and I don’t think this is what we call a good democracy.”

Québec solidaire, another opposition party, says the CAQ is abusing its power by relying on the state of emergency.

“The way the François Legault government is using the state of emergency is abusive,” said ​​Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the party’s co-spokesperson.

“We’ve been seeing this for months now. It is a false choice to say that we have to choose between a total state of emergency and a total return to the normal.

“There is another way, and that way is the transitory law that Québec solidaire has been pushing for months now, since June.”

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Under the Québec solidaire proposal, the provincial government would retain some extraordinary power for a limited time but it would lose some powers, such as the right to ignore public tender rules or suspend collective agreements.

“This virus will be with us, unfortunately, for a long time,” Nadeau-Dubois said.

“So, it’s unimaginable that we will declare a state of emergency every time there’s a new wave. We need to find another way. I think we have a very constructive position on that debate for Québec solidaire, and we will continue to push for that constructive solution.

“We don’t have to choose between business as usual and total state of emergency, it’s not true.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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12:30 p.m.

Germany recommends only Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for under-30s

From the Reuters news agency:

People aged under 30 in Germany should only receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as it causes fewer heart inflammations in younger people than the Moderna shot, an advisory committee said on Wednesday.

The committee, known as STIKO, recommended that pregnant women also be inoculated only with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, regardless of their age.

The recommendations are based on new safety data from the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), Germany’s authority in charge of vaccines, and new international data.

Several other European Union countries have already recommended limiting the use of the Moderna vaccine among younger people.

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The German PEI data showed a “report rate” for heart inflammations of 11.71 per 100,000 shots with the Moderna vaccine for men in the 18-29 age group, compared with 4.68 for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. For women, the rate was 2.95 with Moderna and 0.97 with Pfizer-BioNTech.

In the 12-17 age group, the rate was 11.41 for males with the Moderna shot compared with 4.81 for Pfizer-BioNTech. There was no data provided for females in the lower age group.

France’s public health authority this week recommended that under-30s be given the Pfizer vaccine when available instead of the Moderna shot. Finland and Sweden have also limited use of the Moderna shot.

The EU’s drug regulator said last month it concluded in its review that Moderna’s COVID-19 booster vaccine could be given to people aged 18 years and above, at least six months after the second dose.

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12:25 p.m.

Over 900,000 kids expected to receive first Covid shot by day end-White House

Over 900,000 U.S. children aged 5-11 are expected to have received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot by the end of Wednesday, the Reuters news agency reports.

The United States on Wednesday began administering Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, the latest group to become eligible for the shots that provide protection against the illness to recipients and those around them.

“While our program is just fully up and running this week, by the end of the day today, we estimate that over 900,000 kids aged five through 11 will have already gotten their first shot,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said during a briefing with reporters.

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The figure comes from a White House analysis of available data from pharmaceutical partners, some states, and localities, Zients said, adding the CDC has not yet collected the full tally.

COVID-19 is the largest vaccine-preventable killer of children in that age group, with 66 children dying from it over the past year, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at the same briefing.


12:20 p.m.

Saskatchewan creating protest buffer zones around hospitals to stop harassment

Saskatchewan has introduced a new law that would create a protest buffer zone around hospitals in response to COVID-19, The Canadian Press reports.

The government says the goal is to protect patients and health-care workers from harassment.

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Earlier this year, several anti-vaccine protests related to COVID-19 were held at hospitals across Saskatchewan.

The province says the legislation would prevent those types of demonstrations from happening on sidewalks within 50 metres of hospitals and create a safe access zone.

Minister of Health Paul Merriman says patients and families should be able to access health-care services safely without interference or intimidation.

Back in September, the NDP Opposition called for a safe access zone around hospitals but the minister of justice said at the time that obstructing public facilities was already an offence under the Criminal Code.


11:30 a.m.

Maiden names on vaccine documents: reassuring news and some tips

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the difficulties faced by some Quebec women who plan to travel internationally.

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They are worried about possible problems crossing borders because their Quebec vaccination documents show their maiden names, but their passports, issued by the federal government, feature their married names.

A reader asks:  “I wonder if you’ve had any success in getting further information about this dilemma for married women from Quebec? Surely, if nothing else, it is discriminatory?!”

Well, I have some reassuring news from a Montrealer in this situation who just returned from an overseas trip – and some tips from another reader who found a partial solution to the problem

First the returned traveller, one of the people quoted in my previous look at the issue:

“I have just returned from my trip and luckily I did not run into any issues or delays due to the discrepancy in my names. However, when producing my passport and proof of vaccination, I did show my driver’s licence, as this document shows both my names. This was accepted at all border crossings. 

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“Ironically the most difficulty I had was uploading these required documents digitally and including a copy of my driver’s licence (and marriage certificate also just to make sure) on the various forms I had to complete online to be allowed into Spain, to the rest of Europe and finally to the federal government’s  ArriveCan app to be allowed back into Canada. I am very computer literate and yet had enormous difficulties with these online platforms, so I cannot imagine how anyone who was not computer literate would be able to manage.

“All in all, my advice to anyone planning an overseas trip would be to postpone it until the COVID-19 pandemic is over or at least settled down enough that many of these restrictions and requirements will no longer be necessary.”

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Here’s a second email from a reader who managed to adjust her Quebec proof of vaccination;

“I used the Clic Santé number – 1-877-644-4545 – and luckily enough they had an option that referred to problems with the vaccine passports. Surprisingly I hardly waited more than a minute before an operator responded.  

“Once I explained my situation and verified my identity, she immediately sent me an email with the revised proof of vaccination, including the new Canadian bilingual vaccine passport with the internationally accepted QR code.

“I believe the reason I was able to change it to reflect my maiden and married names is that my medicare and driver’s license have both my names on them. If I had only my maiden name on both of these documents, I don’t think I would have been successful. In my case, I believe it was an oversight at the time I received my first shot that the person preparing the electronic record should have used both my names as they appear on my medicare card. When looking through my vaccine file recently, I saw that the original paper proof of my vaccine doses contained both names but when the electronic proof was sent it only had my maiden name on it.”

“My problem is not totally resolved because my Canadian passport is still only in my married name, and I wonder whether the vaccine passport will be accepted when we do eventually travel outside of Canada.” 

Untangling the issue

The federal government says Canadians travelling internationally with inconsistent documents may face delays, be barred from flights, or be quarantined.

While federal officials told me they are aware of the problem and looking for solutions, Quebec’s Health Department says it has no intention of changing its system.

Under its setup, only the name a person has on their health card can be used on vaccine documents.

Changing names on Quebec health cards

In certain cases, Quebec allows married names on health cards, though even some who fall into this category have found it difficult to get both names included on their vaccine documents.

There are only two situations in which a Quebecer can add a spouse’s name on their health card, according to the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ), the health insurance board.

The two situations:

  • The marriage took place in Quebec before April 2, 1981.
  • The marriage took place outside Quebec and the person “exercises their civil rights under (their) spouse’s name.”

To add a spouse’s name, you must first call the RAMQ (514-864-3411 or 1 800 561-9749) and request a form. It takes about two weeks from receipt of the completed form to get a new card, the RAMQ says.


11:10 a.m.

Updated charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:10 a.m.

Update on Quebec’s vaccination campaign


11:05 a.m.

Quebec reports 1 death as cases jump to 672

Quebec has recorded 672 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

That’s 127 more than yesterday.

The seven-day rolling average is now 591, the highest in more than five weeks.

In addition, one new death was reported.

Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update:

  • Net increase in hospitalizations: 1, for total of 220. (18 entered hospital, 17 discharged).
  • No change in number of intensive care patients: 45. (2 entered ICUs, 2 discharged).
  • 10,487 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.
  • 30,399 tests conducted Monday.
  • Positivity rate: 1.9 per cent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 431,612 cases and 11,529 deaths linked to COVID-19.


10:30 a.m.

Legault’s battle with family doctors: What you need to know

Premier François Legault is in a battle with doctors as he struggles to reach his goal: a general practitioner for every Quebecer.

Is Quebec’s situation worse than elsewhere in Canada? Why is the waiting list double what it was three years ago? Are doctors lazy, as the Coalition Avenir Québec government seems to be implying?

Here’s what you need to know about an issue that is expected to flare as Quebec heads into a provincial election next year.

Read our full story, by Michelle Lalonde.


10 a.m.

B.C. to offer single-dose J&J vaccine to unvaccinated health-care workers first

From The Canadian Press:

British Columbia’s unvaccinated health-care workers will be given the first opportunity to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 when it arrives in British Columbia next week, says the province’s top doctor.

The federal government will provide B.C. with a limited number of doses of the vaccine, which has been widely used in the United States, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.

She said the vaccine has not yet been available in the province.

“Our first priority will be offering it to B.C. workers who have been affected by the (public health officer) order and who want the vaccine as an option for them to continue to safely work in B.C.,” Henry said at a news conference.

More than 3,000 B.C. health-care workers have not been immunized against COVID-19 and are in violation of the government’s proof-of-vaccination policy, which took effect last month.

Under the order, unvaccinated health-care workers have been placed on three months unpaid leave and could face termination.

Henry said some unvaccinated health-care workers who were placed on leave have suggested they would take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

She said she also expects the vaccine to be made available to members of the public, depending on the amount of supply the province receives.

Henry described the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a viral-vector vaccine that offers protection against COVID-19 similar to that of two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the number of health-care workers placed on leave due to their unvaccinated status has been declining in recent days as more get the shots.

“On the health-care workers side, since we last reported … on Friday, we’ve added 1,548 health-care workers,” he said.

Dix said there are now 3,071 unvaccinated health-care workers across B.C., which amounts to two per cent of the total workforce, including nurses, doctors and paramedics.


9:50 a.m.

Working at a CHSLD pays worse than flipping burgers: union rep

It’s more lucrative to work at a fast-food restaurant than to work in the health-care sector treating the elderly, union leader Sylvie Nelson says.

“When it pays better to flip burgers than to provide care or services, I think that we have some questions we have to ask ourselves,” Nelson, the president of the Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service, told the coroner’s inquiry examining the deaths in long-term care centres Tuesday.

Read our full story.


9:50 a.m.

Quebec nursing order plans to break down systemic racism in health care

The Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec has published a position statement aimed at countering systemic racism suffered by First Nations and Inuit people in the province’s health care system.

Read our full story.


9:15 a.m.

The situation across Canada

Here’s the rate of case growth per 100,000 people over the past seven days, via the federal government’s latest epidemiological update .


9:15 a.m.

A guide to Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine passport

Quebec’s vaccine passport is mandatory for people 13 and older who want to access services and activities deemed non-essential by the provincial government, including bars, restaurants, gyms, festivals and sporting events.

Quebecers can use a smartphone app to prove their vaccination status or simply carry their QR code on paper.

The app is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play .

We have published two guides to the passports – one looks at how to download and set up the app , and another answers key questions about the system, including how, when and why.

You can find more information on the Quebec government’s website – one page has details on how the system works, and another has a list of the places where a vaccine passport will be required .

Thomas Resendes, right, scans a QR code from client Jasmin Lauriere, at a Cora restaurant in downtown Montreal on Sept. 1, the first day that restaurants had to ask for the vaccine passport.
Thomas Resendes, right, scans a QR code from client Jasmin Lauriere, at a Cora restaurant in downtown Montreal on Sept. 1, the first day that restaurants had to ask for the vaccine passport. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

9:15 a.m.

A guide to COVID-19 vaccinations in Quebec

Local health authorities have set up mass vaccination sites across Montreal.

You can book appointments via the Clic Santé website or by phone at 1-877-644-4545.

Quebecers can also visit walk-in AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccine clinics .

Here are the nuts and bolts of getting vaccinated , by Katherine Wilton. Her guide includes the age groups targeted, how to book appointments, and addresses of vaccination centres.


9:15 a.m.

Here are the current pandemic restrictions in Montreal and Quebec

We are regularly updating our list of what services are open, closed or modified in Montreal and Quebec, including information on the curfew and other lockdown measures.

You can read it here.


9:15 a.m.

Here’s where Montrealers can get tested today

Montrealers can be screened at test centres across the island.

For other parts of Quebec, check out this page on the Quebec government’s site .


8:30 a.m.

Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

Stay informed with our daily email newsletter focused on local coronavirus coverage and other essential news, delivered directly to your email inbox by 7 p.m. on weekdays.

You can sign up here .


ariga@postmedia.com

Read my previous live blogs here.


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