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Quebec to hold COVID-19 experiment in September involving 2 large-scale concerts

A crowd applauds at a music concert. Getty Images

The Quebec government is planning two concerts involving a total of 25,000 spectators in September as an experiment to examine the impact of COVID-19 on large gatherings and to help relaunch the entertainment and tourism industries.

Researchers at Université Laval will oversee the two shows, which will be held in the Quebec City area, Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx said Monday. Public health authorities hope at least 75 per cent of Quebecers are fully vaccinated by then.

Read more: ‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

“The goal is to have a test concert sometime in September that would reproduce the conditions pre-pandemic,” Proulx told reporters in Quebec City. “The goal is to help the event industry, which has been severely hit by the pandemic, to fully resume its activities in a safe environment.”

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Quebec is touting itself as the first province to attempt such an experiment; similar ones have been held in cities like Barcelona and Paris.

The experiment will involve two shows — a 20,000-person outdoor concert and a 5,000-person concert indoors, Proulx said, adding that the government estimates the events will cost a total of between $2 million and $3 million.

Read more: Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival receives almost $4 million in government money

More information will be announced in the coming weeks as academics iron out the protocol, including vaccination requirements and whether masks or physical distancing will apply, Proulx added.

Sophie D’Amours, rector of Université Laval, said if another wave of novel coronavirus hits the province, then authorities may cancel the shows. “If the situation gets worse, there’s a chance the concert will not occur and it’s taken into consideration when you design the protocol,” D’Amours told the news conference.

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On Monday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said officials had administered a total of 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and its campaign was making progress with people aged 18 to 29 — who have the lowest first-dose vaccination rate in the province. Dubé said 70 per cent of that age cohort had received at least one dose or had been scheduled to get one.

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Quebec’s public health institute says 83 per cent of Quebecers 12 and up are vaccinated with at least one dose while about 55 per cent are considered fully vaccinated.

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