The application of variable geometry physical distancing measures in bars in Quebec worries owners and experts, who fear an outbreak of new cases of COVID-19.
The Montérégie Regional Public Health Department (DRSP) was looking for people on Sunday who had attended the Mile Public House in Quartier Dix30, in Brossard, on June 30. “Several” customers who spent the evening in this restaurant-bar and on its terrace have contracted the virus and may have infected other people. Images circulating on social networks have reported a lack of physical distance in the establishment since its reopening.
The Montérégie is also the region where the number of new cases registered on Sunday is the highest in Quebec, with 55 new cases compared to the previous day, out of the 89 registered throughout the province. Some 18 cases have been added to the island of Montreal, which has long been the epicenter of the epidemic.
If the bars have to close again, it will be a slaughter
The Mile Public House case angered the president of the New Association of Quebec Bars, Pierre Thibault, who did not hesitate to expel him from the group. “This is exactly what we wanted to avoid,” he says furiously.
Who also owns the Taverne Saint-Sacrement on the Plateau Mont-Royal, fears that the government will backtrack. “You can’t crush the whole industry because of a handful of delinquent owners,” he said, noting that the vast majority of tenants are working harder to comply with health guidelines. “If the bars have to close again, it will be a slaughter. At least three out of five establishments will not survive, ”says Thibault.
A visit to several Montreal commercial arteries at the end of the day on Sunday revealed that the bars, pubs and restaurants respected the rules. Some have redesigned their terraces to space tables, others have installed Plexiglas panels when the distance was insufficient.
A server wishing to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals nevertheless entrusted to Duty that some customers were giving him a hard time. “In the evening, inside, when the world begins to be on the party, people get closer and drop the distancing. Some servers have to call them to order, but it is not always easy. “
I do not need this clientele of partygoers who respect nothing. We are still in a pandemic.
“After midnight it was the revelers, already affected by alcohol, because they started drinking elsewhere. They stay up to chat, they are glued, some want to “cruise”, but not two meters away. I’m losing control over this clientele, “said Glen Legall, owner of the Glen Morgan’s Irish Pub in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
However, he made sure to space the tables inside his pub and on the terrace. Unnecessary measurements after a certain hour and a few drinks.
Worried about his employees and his customers, he therefore decided to close his pub at midnight since Saturday. “I don’t need this clientele of partygoers who don’t respect anything. We are still in a pandemic, “he protested.
Other bars, especially in Montreal, are also closing earlier to be able to keep control of the evening. Some operate on a reservation basis, to keep track of who attended their establishment and when. In the event of a possible outbreak, it will be easier to contact customers.
To prevent a scenario like the one at Mile Public House from happening again, Pierre Thibault proposes to close clubs and nightclubs in Quebec. In return, the government should offer financial support to entrepreneurs to get through the crisis. He also suggests an increased police presence, to monitor and possibly punish recalcitrant clients and tenants.
These slippages do not surprise the Dre Caroline Quach-Thanh, microbiologist-infectiologist at the Sainte-Justine hospital in Montreal. “These are closed spaces. Once you have had a little alcohol, it is impossible to enforce the two meters. In addition, we speak loudly because of the music, so we project even more droplets. “
Therein lies the danger, drop the distancing measures with people you know, who you don’t consider to be at risk
It is because of new outbreaks in bars and nightclubs that some American states have recently backed down and ordered the closure of these establishments.
Should Quebec follow suit? “In a cold region, no problem keeping them open. But in an area of increasing numbers, the government should think about it. We will have to follow the situation closely, ”says Mme Quach-Thanh.
But bars are not the only source of the problem. Several beaches have been invaded in the past few weeks, which has made physical distance almost impossible. In parks, the “two meters” are easier to apply, but that does not prevent some from returning to their old habits. The duty has noticed that several groups of friends have already reconnected with the kiss, the hug or the handshake, not recommended in times of pandemic.
“Therein lies the danger, dropping the distancing measures with people you know, who you don’t consider to be at risk. They are the ones who can transmit the virus to us, not just a stranger, ”said Dr. Quach-Thanh. “If we continue like this, the number of cases will skyrocket and we will have to reconfigure ourselves. “
An opinion shared by Alain Vadeboncœur, chief emergency physician at the Montreal Heart Institute. According to him, Public Health and the government have focused too much on the number of deaths related to COVID-19 and on the fact that the elderly are the most affected.
However, many young people in their twenties or thirties ended up in intensive care. “Young people get by more often, but they are not immune to being hit hard by the virus. Some have spent a week or more intubated. They come out very weak and will certainly have sequelae, “says Dr Vadeboncœur. “The youngest are not afraid of the virus. Maybe they should. “