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Quebec bans bars from selling alcohol after midnight to limit coronavirus outbreaks

WATCH LIVE: Quebec officials provide update on COVID-19 measures for bars.

Quebec is clamping down on bars in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, including limiting hours and restricting the number of people in establishments.

Health Minister Christian Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health, unveiled the new regulations during an update on Thursday afternoon in Montreal.

As of Friday, bars will be mandated to stop serving alcohol at midnight and customers must leave by 1 a.m. As part of the plan, establishments must only operate at 50 per cent of their capacity and customers must be seated.

“Expanded numbers of police officers will be placed in proximity to busy areas,” said Dubé. “We need everyone to work together on this.”

The restrictions come after public health authorities urged patrons who visited Mile Public House on Montreal’s south shore during the night of June 30 to get tested for COVID-19.

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“It’s an example that we cannot take the risk of this happening again,” said Dubé.

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READ MORE: Quebec to hold public consultation on COVID-19 tracking app

Dubé has threatened to shut down bars that don’t comply with public health directives such as social distancing. However, he said on Thursday that the province chose not to close them in hopes that the new measures will help curb the spread of the virus.

“There is a matter of public health,” he said. “We need to do something.”

Dubé has also insisted business owners and the public have a responsibility to uphold regulations to keep people safe as the pandemic continues. Bars were given the green light to reopen in late June but with several conditions in place.

“Let’s look at the next few weeks, see how things evolve and we’ll go from there,” said Dubé.

The province, which remains the hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, recorded 137 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of people infected to 56,216.

In Quebec, the health crisis has killed 5,609 people to date. Six new deaths were reported on Thursday, though four fatalities occurred before July 1.

READ MORE: ‘We will close your venue,’ Quebec’s health minister warns bars flouting coronavirus measures

There are 308 people in hospital, a decrease of 23 from Wednesday. Of them, 27 patients are in intensive care.

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“The numbers we have seen in the past few days, we have to be prudent,” said Dubé.

An organization representing owners of Quebec bars has issued a statement predicting the new measures “are going to drive hundreds of bar owners into bankruptcy.”

The Corporation des proprietaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Quebec said the province has not provided the aid needed to help owners weather the financial impact of the pandemic.

With files from the Canadian Press