Coronavirus: growing confusion over ‘essential’ services in Quebec’s lockdown – Montreal

With retail shops specializing in the sale of clothing, books or any other goods deemed ‘non-essential’ forced to shut their doors in Quebec since Christmas, floral shops in the province want to make sure you know they’re still allowed to serve you in person.

Of course, you would be forgiven for assuming otherwise: along with auto-repair shops and garden centres, florists were not on what was a brief list of “essential services” permitted to keep their doors open during Quebec’s first shutdown of retail stores during the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave in the spring of 2020.

When florists like Rizzo Chu, the owner of Le Rouge in Montreal’s west end, learned in December that they would be allowed to keep their doors open even after most retail stores were forced to shut down starting Christmas Day, the news came as something of a surprise, and certainly a relief.

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“Flowers are essential. Flowers bring happiness, bring love, as we all know, we bring surprises as well,” Chu told Global News.

This time around, Chu says the ability to keep up in-person sales, in addition to curbside pickup and delivery services, has been a godsend, both for business and her customers, who often want to be able to select individual flowers for their arrangements.

“By opening the storefront, people can walk in, they can change the (arrangement), they can choose the flowers,” Chu said.

When asked by Global News, Premier François Legault, Health Minister Christian Dubé and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda exchanged a few confused looks and cross-talk about the “debate” that was had within the government over the status of floral shops during the pandemic’s first wave.

“What is essential could be different from the first wave versus the second one,” Arruda ultimately explained. “It was also based on the epidemiology and the risk of the situation.”

Funerals are the most obvious reason for florists to stay open, with Quebec registering dozens of new deaths from the novel coronavirus each day. But there are other reasons for flower arrangements to be exempt from the retail shutdown.

Like grocery stores and restaurants, their stock is perishable, and cannot simply be sat on until the second wave subsides.

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Floral shops aren’t the only surprises to be found on the vast lists of what is, and what is not, “essential” during the pandemic’s second wave in Quebec.

For example, paint primer is considered essential, and can be purchased at hardware stores. However, tinted paint, located just an aisle away at most Rona or Canadian Tire stores, is not essential, and cannot be purchased.

Skate-sharpening services are allowed to be sold, but you can’t purchase a new pair of skates in a store. You’ll have to order a product like that online.

Another service that may surprise Quebecers to be deemed ‘essential’ is physiotherapy, though unlike florists, they were considered essential during the first wave lockdown, too.

Action Sport Physiotherapy Clinic Owner Patrick Scheldeman said in an interview that he’s been working hard to let clients know they can, in fact, still make an appointment.

“Certainly, we’ve done as much as we can with our existing clientele to communicate that with them, via our social media,” he said.

Once clients do learn Action Sport’s still open, they’re “surprised and relieved,” he said, and added, “the ones that were surprised are the ones that are relieved, because these are the long-time comers, the ones that rely on our help.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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