Legault's 'shock therapy': four weeks of a nighttime curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.


by Adam Kovac and Selena Ross, CTV Montreal

As of Saturday, Quebecers will be living under a curfew while the province struggles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

As expected, Premier Francois Legault announced a "shock therapy" of several new lockdown measures on Wednesday afternoon. Among them, a curfew that will require Quebecers to be in their homes by 8 p.m. until 5 a.m.

Legault stressed that other than for going to work, there would be no excuses for violating curfew. He said the province's grocery stores and depanneurs would remain open but would close at 7:30 p.m. to allow shoppers time to get home.

Pharmarcies and gas stations will be permitted to remain open during curfew hours. 

The new measures will last for four weeks, until Feb. 8.

Measures that had previously been in place, such as the closing of restaurant dining rooms, would also remain in place for the four weeks. 

The announcement comes as the number of daily new cases and deaths continue to grow within the province. Quebec's death toll from COVID-19 currently stands at 8,488 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Schools to reopen as planned on the 11th

Legault announced that while the province has seen a number of COVID-19 outbreaks stemming from the province's schools, primary schools will re-open as planned on Jan. 11.

As part of the terms for re-opening, students in the fifth and sixth grades would be required to wear masks in the classroom.

High schools, however, will not resume in person until Jan. 18, though online learning will begin a week earlier. 

As part of the new measures, Legault said that houses of worship, which had been allowed to operate with a capacity of 25 people, would be totally closed for four weeks, with the exception of funerals, where attendance will be capped at 10 people. 

Just two months ago, Legault had waived the possibility of Christmas gatherings as an incentive for Quebecers to comply with COVID-19 rules. But as the number of new cases continued to grow, he backtracked. On Dec. 14, the premier announced an 18-day lockdown over the Christmas break, calling it a “circuit-breaker” that would allow the province time to regroup.

On the day of that announcement, 1,620 new cases were reported. On Wednesday, public health officials announced 2,641 new cases.

The benefits of a curfew

A local public health expert said one benefit of curfews is simple: they remind people of the seriousness of the situation and their own duty to help.

“By instituting a curfew we encourage individual awareness of the risks associated with going out,” said Roxane Borges Da Silva of the Université de Montreal’s school of public health.

In France, for example, it’s possible to go out during curfew, but people must justify why, she said—which encourages people to think along those lines.

“You have to have a good reason to get out, and you have to fill a form… and you have a list of reasons which are accepted,” Da Silva said.“So you can get out to walk your dog, no problem with that, you can get out to go to the pharmacy, you can get out to help your parents, old people, there's no problem for that—but you have to be responsible and know that you can get out for this good reason and otherwise you stay home.”

She said that even 10 months into the pandemic, she thinks many people still don’t fully realize the danger of COVID-19, either catching it or transmitting it.The curfew in France was an effective measure, she said, and Quebec is at the same kind of crisis moment.

"I know it goes against our values, but we are really at a breaking point,” she said.“We can't afford to have so many cases every day and we know that hospitals are at a breaking point too.”  

Legault began the press conference by wishing Quebecers a happy and healthy new year but admitted the province is in a "critical" situation that is "the battle of our lives."

He called the decision to enact the curfew "difficult," but necessary to protect the province's healthcare network. 

"Although we studied dozens of scenarios, in each scenario there are disadvantages," he said. "The first thing we asked ourselves... is why? Why, with all the efforts we're making, with schools and businesses closed, there are so many new cases every day? The answer is hard: it happened a lot in people's homes."



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