The curfew, which mandates Quebecers other than exempt groups to stay off from the streets between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. until Feb. 8, is the latest measure imposed by Quebec Premier Francois Legault, which he says will serve as an “electroshock” for Quebecers to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are obliged to provide a type of shock treatment so that people reduce their visits,” Legault told reporters last week, adding that “the police are important allies in the fight against the virus.”
The provincial police said they targeted about 20 locations across multiple municipalities in response to protests against the curfew on the first night, and issued more than 150 tickets.
Fines for not complying with the curfew rules can range from $1,000 to as high as $6,000, police said.
Quebec police spokesman Sgt. Etienne Doyon said they issued fines to about 20 people protesting outside the Museum of Civilization in Old Port around 8:20 p.m., and detained some protesters who refused to identify themselves.
In Montreal, tickets were issued to protesters in the city’s Plateau borough, according to spokeswoman Const. Caroline Chevrefils.
Montreal police said Sunday that they issued 84 tickets in total, including 17 to protestors. Police said no tickets were issued to people who were homeless.
In Sherbrooke, a city in southern Quebec, police fined about a dozen people protesting the curfew. Another 11 tickets were issued in the city of Trois-Rivieres, and according to local police, they managed to dissuade a group of people who intended to protest against the curfew, with no one being issued a ticket eventually.
One planned protest in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil appeared to fizzle, said Longueuil police Capt. Jean-Christophe Fortin.
In nearby Chateauguay, police had stopped 143 vehicles and 161 people by midnight, and issued six tickets.
“The majority of vehicles intercepted and citizens stopped had a valid reason that is on the list of exceptions,” spokeswoman Const. Jenny Lavigne said.
As of Jan. 10, the province has reported 1,869 new infection cases, 18 new associated deaths, and another 56 hospitalizations.
Whether implementing a curfew is effective in curbing the COVID-19 spread, the province health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said there is no hard evidence to back it up.
“There’s no science that can tell you what measure will have what percentage effect,” Arruda said last week, adding that the curfew is part of a series of measures that seeks to reduce social gatherings and contact between people.
Matt Strauss, a journalist and a critical care physician at Guelph General Hospital, disagree with Quebec’s curfew.
“No. No. No. Curfews are not a ‘way to communicate.’ You do not trample on civil liberties to ‘communicate,’” Strauss wrote on Twitter, citing an article by the Globe and Mail.
“The benefits of lockdowns to prevent deaths from COVID-19 are far from proven. The very best paper evaluating whether lockdowns save lives was performed by researchers at the University of Toronto, Drs. Chaudry and Riazi, and published by the Lancet. They took data from 50 countries reporting COVID-19 mortality and performed statistical analyses to see whether those that enacted strict lockdowns had fewer COVID-19 deaths. They did not,” Strauss wrote.
“A similar analysis, by a Dr. Leffler and colleagues, used data from 200 countries and was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. It likewise found no effect of lockdowns on COVID-19 mortality.”
He added that while those papers could be criticized, and perhaps better data could one day supersede them, but “the cold, hard fact is that lockdowns do not seem to achieve what one might hope” as of now, and thus he called for a more focused protection plan in which resources can be poured in “protecting society’s most vulnerable, rather than subsidizing less vulnerable people to make unnecessary sacrifices.”
With files from The Canadian Press