Dozens of public health and economics experts called on Quebec Monday to institute a temporary COVID-19 lockdown this month as new infections surpassed 1,500 for the third straight day.
More than 75 experts signed an open letter published in Montreal’s La Presse recommending that all non-essential businesses be closed for two weeks to stem the spread of the virus.
Pierre-Carl Michaud, an economics professor at Universite de Montreal’s HEC business school and one of the signatories, said a December lockdown would do less damage to the economy than one in the new year.
“We think it would be wise to synchronize a short lockdown — short but effective lockdown — with the holidays,” Michaud said in an interview.
He said most children are not in school over the holiday period, while the economy typically slows down, as well. “It doesn’t solve everything, but it buys us time until the vaccine arrives to the general population,” he said.
Last week, Quebec Premier Francois Legault walked back plans to allow small gatherings over four days at Christmas, saying the COVID-19 situation in the province made it too risky. “With the numbers we have, it’s unrealistic to think we’ll be able to change the situation in time for Christmas,” Legault told reporters on Thursday.
Quebec reported 1,577 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and attributed 22 additional deaths to the virus, three of which took place over the previous 24-hour period. Eight deaths occurred between Nov. 30 and Dec. 5 and one was before Nov. 30.
Hospitalizations increased by 40 for a total of 818. Of those, 105 people were in intensive care, an increase of three from a day before.
The regions with the most new cases were Montreal at 472, the Monteregie, south of Montreal, with 220, and Lanaudiere, north of Montreal, and the Quebec City area, which each had 160. Quebec has now reported 153,176 COVID-19 cases and 7,277 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Dr. Howard Bergman, a professor of family and geriatric medicine at McGill University and another signatory of Monday’s open letter, said health-care workers were relieved when the Quebec government cancelled gatherings over Christmas.
A temporary lockdown this month, he said, would have a positive psychological effect on those front-line workers as they prepare for January, when hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions typically rise.
“We want to protect our health-care system, which is always at a fragile point in this type of pandemic,” he said.