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Restaurants, rights groups denounce Quebec curfew, experts say it’s necessary

Click to play video: 'Reaction mixed for Quebec’s new COVID-19 restrictions' Reaction mixed for Quebec’s new COVID-19 restrictions
As many prepare to have quiet New Year's Eve celebrations, Quebecers are digesting the news of another lockdown. For many businesses and for society's most vulnerable, the new curfew will be catastrophic. But experts say it's a necessary evil to protect a health care system on the verge of collapse from the latest COVID-19 wave. Global's Dan Spector reports. – Dec 31, 2021

A shroud of eerie, quiet calm will wash over Montreal streets again, as curfew returns between 10 pm and 5 am.

As Quebecers continue to digest the news of another lockdown, businesses and civil rights groups are denouncing the government’s decision.

“It’s a nightmare,” said François Vincent, the Quebec vice president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

He said the average small business in Quebec has racked up about $100,000 in debt since the beginning of the pandemic, and the average restaurant has $200,000 in COVID-related debt. Last-minute news of closing dining-rooms could be a knockout blow for many.

“We cannot play yo-yo and then stop industry, and [then start] it back again, and then stop it again [on] short notice like that,” said Vincent.
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READ MORE: Quebec curfew to start at 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve as province reports over 16,460 COVID cases, 13 deaths

He said restaurants are already in a severe labour shortage, and there is concern that even more people will leave the industry now.

On Twitter, Quebec’s economy minister said the province will compensate restaurants for lost inventory. Many restaurants have complained they had filled their fridges with food, which will no longer be needed with the coming closure.

“We think that the curfew is being trivialized by the government right now,” said Catherine Descoteaux, of Quebec civil rights advocacy group la Ligue des droits et libertés.

Civil liberty advocates point to just how extreme a decision it is to limit citizens’ freedom of movement.

“This is a fundamental right in a democratic province or a democratic country like Canada. It’s really worrying for us,” she said.

Like in the previous curfew, she says the homeless and other vulnerable groups will be hard hit. She also expressed concern for victims of domestic violence.

“It was discussed a lot in the past winter, during the first curfew, that some women could not escape their homes because of that, or they were too scared to do it,” she said.

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Many have questioned how effective the curfew will actually be at reducing cases, and François Legault admitted there is no conclusive data from Quebec’s previous night-time lockdown.

READ MORE: Quebec opposition parties say COVID-19 curfew a sign of government’s failure

McGill infectious diseases expert Dr. Donald Vinh believes it will help.

“We need it because we’re at the tipping point. We’re at the tipping point of a potential collapse of our healthcare system. Either we rise up and we tower over this obstacle or we get toppled by it,” he said.

Vinh said though no study has proven Quebec’s first curfew reduced COVID-19 transmission, there is data suggesting curfews help.

“There was a study that looked at the use of curfews in Ontario and Quebec, specifically in Montreal as well. They saw that curfews in the previous waves actually decreased night-time or nocturnal social contacts by about 30 to 35 percent. So that’s actually a very important statistic,” he said.

According to Vinh, with hospitalizations rapidly increasing and the health system at risk of soon being overwhelmed, swift action is needed.

“Only time will tell us if that curfew was going to be necessary or not, but we don’t have the luxury of time. We need to come to a hard stop,” he said.

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Vinh also thinks the decision to delay the reopening of elementary and secondary schools by a week was a good one.

“That gives you two weeks to try and and let the virus, you know, extinguish itself through the measures that we’re implementing and hopefully that’ll be sufficient,” he told Global News.

Parents, however, wish they had been given more notice.

“Had this just been announced a little bit earlier, you know. It gives you more time to try to set up what you need to set up for child care or, making different arrangements with your work,” said Kathy Korakakis, president of Quebec’s English Parents’ Committee Association.

Korakakis hopes until they return to class, kids are able to have meaningful online learning.

Vinh says the best way to end the curfew is to adhere to it.

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