Restaurateurs and other merchants are worried. While most of them are already out of steam, the government has just announced that as of Thursday, it will close bars, restaurant dining rooms, concert halls, and theatres in red zones in order to prevent new cases of COVID-19 from overwhelming the public health care system.
From the start of this pandemic, it is clear that the problems of restaurateurs and other merchants are the direct result of lockdown measures imposed by the government. Yet for some time now, the narrative has changed in the media and among the population. Blame seems to be levelled now against “the stubborn” or against critics of the government plan—as if, through their “irresponsible” actions, they were directly responsible for retailers’ troubles, since they are “forcing” the government to lock us all down again. This twisted logic clears the government of its responsibility, whereas we should instead be questioning its strategy in order to see if it’s really the right one.
Indeed, Journalist Thomas Gerbet from the French CBC asked a very pertinent question on Twitter yesterday: “I’ve searched, but I can’t find any outbreak in a Montreal bar or restaurant for at least a month. On the basis of what compelling evidence were they closed? I’m waiting for the Health Minister’s response.”
Considering the harm inflicted on bar and restaurant owners, the government, which is primarily responsible for their troubles, could at least explain what motivated its decision. As the bankruptcies pile up, it is not “the stubborn” who will be to blame.