MONTREAL -- Public health and economics experts have called on Quebec to institute a temporary COVID-19 lockdown this month to try to stem the spread of the virus. 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.

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 Monday.

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.

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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2020.