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Coronavirus in Quebec: local businesses closing, struggling amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Pandemic creating financial hardship for local businesses
WATCH: Many Montreal businesses are feeling the financial effects of COVID-19. Whether they opted to close or are trying to stay open, their bottom line is taking a hit. Kwabena Oduro explains.

The Quebec government’s measures in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus are leaving local entrepreneurs scrambling to make ends meet.

READ MORE: COVID-19 cases in Quebec climb to 39 as premier asks non-essential establishments to close

At Chez Fourna, a Lebanese restaurant located in a downtown Montreal mall, owner Adel Akkouche is keeping his restaurant open — at a huge cost.

Akkouche says 75 per cent of sales dropped since Saturday.

“I was shocked, it was the first time it happened,” Akkouche told Global News. “I have three kids, they’re all staying home, so I come here every morning to try to make ends meet.”

He says he’s had to lay off staff and remains open because he says he wants to help.

“Because there are some people who need to eat,” Akkouche said.

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Economic impact of the federal COVID-19 aid package
Economic impact of the federal COVID-19 aid package

But Akkouche worries that at the rate things are going, he won’t be able to pay his rent.

“I’m gonna have a heart [attack], I’m freaking out I’m telling you, you know that [rent] is more $10,000 a month, I almost sold nothing.”

Akkouche says his only hope is that the government strikes a deal with landlords and spares small businesses like his.

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“Fix our rent,” he asked Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

READ MORE: Trudeau unveils $82B in aid for families, business amid coronavirus uncertainty

While some businesses are scrambling to stay open, others, like the D.D.O Fit Body Bootcamp have been forced to close.

“Honestly, it’s been really tough,” said Sari Haj Ibrahim, the gym’s manager. “We have been suffering financially, it’s been tough to keep everything going.”

In order to cope, they are preparing at-home workout programs for their clients.

Ibrahim says he is trying to stay optimistic for the future.

“In terms of permanently closing, obviously I would like to say that’s not going to happen. But you never know how it’s going to turn out,” he told Global News.

Coronavirus: Working from home leading to feelings of isolation for some
Coronavirus: Working from home leading to feelings of isolation for some

O Coiffure & Spa owner Tony Sawaya has voluntarily shut his business down over concerns of the spread of COVID-19.

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“I plead with the government to force my industry to shut down,” Sawaya told Global News.

“I have 18 families that I need to attend to, I need to make sure they’re safe, I need to make sure they have food on their tables and if they’re stressed, I’m beyond stressed.”

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Montreal rolls out financial measures to help Montrealers, businesses amid pandemic

Sawaya says that current guidelines put in place put businesses like his in a grey area, as they are allowed to operate if they wish.

He says that means that neither his workers nor his business are eligible for any of the relief measures put in place by the different levels of government.

“Please, I beg you to force everybody to take the measures we are taking,” Sawaya said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

–With files from Global’s Kwabena Oduro, Max Kalinowicz and Jonathan Nudell