We Compared Quebec's Restrictions In 2021 To 2020 & It's Sort Of Déjà Vu

It's beginning to look a lot like COVIDmas...

Staff Writer
We Compared Quebec's Restrictions In 2021 To 2020 & It's Sort Of Déjà-Vu

As we enter the holiday season, there's an obvious sense of déjà vu in Quebec, with high hopes for a festive break dashed by surging case counts, new restrictions and freaked-out government officials responding in real time to a suddenly terrible health care situation.

But 2021 and 2020 aren't exactly the same so far — although the 2021 situation is evolving by the minute.

The biggest difference between this year and last year is the government has not introduced any strict lockdown restrictions — at least, not yet. While places like gyms, bars and movie theatres are closed, shops and restaurants are open for now. It's the little things, right?

To help you distinguish the past from the present so you don't feel like you're stuck in a time warp, we've compiled the differences.

(Obviously, with another government news conference planned at 6 p.m. on December 22, this could all change again. We'll update this as needed.)

Private gatherings

Remember all those red zones and yellow zones back in 2020? Depending on which one you lived in, you could either have a small private gathering or none whatsoever. There was a weird holiday exception too, where people living alone could join another household's "bubble" for the holidays.

Flash forward to the present: Private gatherings are allowed in 2021, but you're only allowed to have up to 10 people. And hey, no weird zoning rules to remember!

Getting around

During the 2020 holiday season, that system of red, orange and yellow zones separated different parts of Quebec, and travel between regions was "not recommended." The border with Ontario wasn't closed, but non-essential travel was also discouraged, and strict rules governed crossing the New Brunswick border.

And of course, in early January 2021, the Legault government announced a curfew that would last for months.

In December 2021, no curfew has been announced, borders and airports remain open, zones have not been activated and people can still travel around the country despite the restrictions. It's not recommended that you travel internationally, mind you, but you can if you must.


In 2020, there were also weird rules about what stores you could actually visit. There was a rule about "essential products" in essential businesses, like grocery stores and pharmacies, where stores could only sell certain products in order to limit store visits. You may recall that no one seemed to like that rule.

Nowadays? No weird store rules, no product limitations and no "essential" definitions of anything. The only limit that you have to remember in 2021 is that retail shops will be limited to 50% of their capacity. So you might have to stand in line to get into H&M this holiday season, but at least you can go.

Restaurants & bars

Last year, all restaurants and bars in red zones closed their dining rooms and were only open for delivery or pickup.

So far, restaurants are still open this year, with a 50% capacity limit and only between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Bars — sadly, for those who could really use a drink right now — are closed for the foreseeable future until Omicron settles down.


While many students are back home for the holidays, last year was a little more complicated. Schools ended for the holidays a bit earlier, on December 17, and there was a comprehensive distance learning plan in place. They delayed reopening until January 11 and later.

This year, schools closed as of December 21, though some school boards scheduled holiday vacations to begin on December 17. Similar to last year, schools will remain closed until January 10. Children who were supposed to go back before will have to attend classes online instead.*

Sports & gyms

Gym rats will be the first to tell you that for two holidays in a row, they'll be unable to get their reps in because the government closed gyms to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The good news for athletic types in 2021, though, is that they can supplement their gym time with a game of pickup hockey, because recreational activities can be played with 25 fully vaccinated people indoors. In 2020, only some outdoor activities and sports were allowed with restrictions.

That said, sports tournaments and competitions have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Even the beloved Montreal Canadiens were put on pause in 2021.

*This article has been updated.

This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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