‘It’s unprecedented’: Montreal’s economy feels impact of COVID-19

The once-bustling Ste-Catherine Street in downtown Montreal has quickly come to a silent halt amid businesses temporarily shutting down due to the novel coronavirus.

The quick spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has forced shops, major retailers, hairdressers, bars and restaurants to par down their business.

“It’s very bad,” said Marc Fortin, a spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada. “It’s unprecedented.

“It’s extremely bad when you have about 30 to 70 per cent drop in sales for three weeks.”

The Quebec government has introduced sweeping measures in the past week over the outbreak as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise.

As part of the plan, non-essential services such as bars, casinos and spas have been ordered to close. Restaurants are allowed to stay open, but they must abide by strict rules and must operate at 50 per cent capacity.

National and provincial officials are also urging people to stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19.

While the Quebec government is offering financial aid to affected workers and businesses, the changes have left Montreal’s service industry and retail stores dealing with a sudden economic hit.

Major retailers — including Simons, Hudson’s Bay and Aldo along Ste-Catherine Street — have temporarily closed their physical shops.

Restaurants are also feeling the pinch. La Cage aux Sports was forced to lay off more than 2,000 workers on Tuesday.

The novel coronavirus is having a clear impact on the local economy and a recession is looming, according to experts.

“Until we get back outdoors again, get back to the office, something usual, the economy isn’t going to be special or anything positive,” said Moshe Lander, an economist at Concordia University.

“It’s going to be bad news.”

With all the uncertainty and the closure of non-essential services, Fortin agrees.

“It’s going to be a short recession or a recession down the road,” he said.

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