Quebec premier may 'soon' announce relaxed Montreal-area curfew
MONTREAL -- Montrealers tired of living under a curfew might see some light at the end of the tunnel with a possible loosening of restrictions now that the days are longer.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault was asked at a news conference Monday in Montreal whether the curfew could be pushed back since daylight time began Sunday and people would want to take advantage of more daylight hours.
The premier said the curfew was part of the discussion with his team over the weekend and offered a glimmer of hope there might be some good news coming “soon.”
“Last Saturday, it was part of this discussion, to say, with (more light) … during the day, should we change the curfew from 8:00 to 9:00 or 9:30. We're looking at that right now and we may have to announce something soon,” he said.
The premier is expected to hold a news conference Tuesday at 5 p.m. for an update on the pandemic. He will be joined by health minister Christian Dube and public health director Horacio Arruda and will reportedly announce the curfew will be pushed back to 9:30 p.m. in red zones.
Experts say those living in the red zone might be less willing to follow the curfew now that the days are longer.
"From a behavioral perspective, as the days get longer, it's going to seem less and less natural to be in the house after a certain time," Kim Lavoie, chair of behavioral medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal, told The Canadian Press.
Lavoie is currently studying adherence to COVID-19 measures around the world. While she said she would support continuing the curfew if there is evidence that suggests it's needed, she thinks later sunsets could erode support for the measure.
"If the government continues to fine people for this, after a certain point in the year, I think you're going to get a lot more pushback, because it's just going to seem so unnatural to be in the house by eight o'clock when the sun's still shining," she said.
Montreal police are still ticketing members of the public for not complying with the curfew, which came into effect into early January in a bid to discourage social gatherings that can spread the virus. The curfew in red zones, such as Montreal, is from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
From March 8 to 14, police received 421 calls regarding the curfew and handed out 230 tickets for non-compliance.
Daniel Weinstock, the director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University said "the curfew started at a time where the likelihood that people would go along with it was probably at its highest."
The weather was cold and the province was reporting an average of more than 2,500 COVID-19 cases a day.
But with days getting longer and clocks moving forward, that may change.
"When it's still light at the time that we're supposed to be heading inside for the curfew, I think at that point it's going to be very difficult to maintain and people will probably just start voting with their feet," he said.
Last week, a group of Hasidic Jews appeared in court asking for an exemption to the measure so they can conduct group prayers after sundown -- something they say they won't be able to do now that the clocks have moved forward.
The initial request was rejected by Judge Brian Riordan on the grounds that it could endanger public health.
On Monday, Quebec reported hospitalizations for COVID-19 went up slightly in the province as 594 more people tested positive for the virus. The average daily increase in cases over the last seven days is now 713.
Montreal was the most affected region, reporting 247 new coronavirus cases, for a total of 110,950 since March 2020.
-- With files from The Canadian Press