The health minister invoked Quebec's overburdened hospitals and the ongoing efforts of healthcare workers.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Christian Dubé offered his thoughts on a growing movement of Montreal restaurant owners who say they will reopen on January 30 no matter what the health regulations are. The health minister said he sympathizes with their frustrations, but said they might "lack conscience."
"We need to be careful to not give more reasons to encourage these individuals to not respect the rules," said Dubé.
"It's not for nothing that we're talking about prioritization protocols for hospitals," he said, referring to the government's planning to deal with beds filled beyond capacity and staffing shortages caused by the Omicron wave. "The situation in hospitals, if people haven't understood, is we've reached the end of the line."
Last week, a handful of Montreal restaurants, including Kesté and Cafeteria Europa, announced that they would open on January 30 at full capacity. That plan is in protest of "arbitrary measures that have been proven not to be effective in solving the issue we are all faced with," according to an Instagram post.
But Dubé said things need to happen in a certain order.
"We have to take control of the situation, notably hospitals, before discussing reopenings," the health minister explained on Tuesday.
"At the same time, I want to say to those people that you have a reason to be upset," Dubé said. "We all have reason to be upset [...] but at the same time, it would be disappointing to let go [of rules] where there could be, in a few days, a stabilization of cases and eventually, a reduction. Before opening your restaurant, think about the workers in hospitals, where we're missing 12,000 workers."
Dubé declined to provide a timeline or a sense of what might reopen next when the government begins to remove restrictions, reiterating that the situation in hospitals needed to be under control first.
"I understand you're frustrated, but think about the workers and the health network [...] we want to reopen, but wait a little bit."