Restaurant and bar owners fuming that public health did not recommend closure in second wave
MONTREAL -- A back-and-forth between Quebec opposition parties in the National Assembly and the province's director of public health Horacio Arruda has left bar and restaurant owners fuming.
"It's shocking," said Burgundy Lion co-owner Paul Desbaillets.
Desbaillets is referring to an exchange between Arruda and Parti Quebecois parliamentary leader Pascale Berube Wednesday when Arruda answered a question about which health recommendations were not followed by Francois Legault's CAQ government in response to the second wave of the novel coronavirus.
“Can you give us an example of a recommendation you made that was not followed at all?” asked Berube.
“On the issue of certain workplace environments, especially museums or restaurants, we recommended that they could potentially remain open,” Arruda replied.
"The lack of communication within its own administration and within the government, I would think should have people totally with their head spinning," said Desbaillets.
The Quebec Institute of Public Health issues weekly reports on where new outbreaks occur, how many there are and how many cases are connected to the outbreak.
In the weeks leading up to the second restaurant shutdown, restaurants accounted for the highest increases in new outbreaks.
The Oct. 3 report (posted below) immediately before restaurants were ordered to close shows restaurants and bars reporting 16 new outbreaks and 44 COVID-19 cases, third among outbreaks categorized as "work" by Quebec.
Manufacturing industries (28 outbreaks, 82 cases) and retail shops (23 outbreaks, 62 cases) showed the highest of the 423 new cases.
Of the 48 total outbreaks in restaurants that week, 152 cases were reported across 12 regions in Quebec.
It should be noted that the same report shows that 80 per cent of the outbreaks concern less than five cases. For example, a bar with one case, counts as an outbreak.
The Oct. 10 report after restaurants and bars were ordered closed shows 58 outbreaks, 175 cases across 12 regions.
Part of the problem is the term "outbreak." Restaurateurs and bar owners have often complained that they are being made an example of by the government when they have done what is required during the health crisis.
"The industry is up in arms with the idea of being scapegoated, small independent businesses being pushed into the corner that we're being pushed into," said Desbaillets. "What we were doing in September was perfectly on point and exactly what the recommendations were.
"Restaurants had put thousands and thousands of dollars to get themselves up to code and up to speed to make sure that they could be in operation."
Desbaillets adds that he and his staff want to work and contribute to the province's economy.
"We want to be working. We did everything possible to be in that position in September," he said.