Challenges are still immense in Greater Montreal, the epicentre of the country’s epidemic and home to half of all Quebecers who live in poverty.
Although the stay-at-home orders are being gradually lifted, the battle is far from over. Getting back to normal will be fraught with difficulty, and the pandemic will inevitably leave major after-effects in its wake.
From the field
Why are disadvantaged neighbourhoods hit hardest?
Montréal-Nord, Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Ahuntsic-Cartierville are the Montreal boroughs most affected by COVID-19, followed closely by Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension.
The longer the crisis lasts, the greater the impact that COVID-19 will have on vulnerable populations and the wider the gap becomes between rich and poor neighbourhoods. As of May 26, Westmount had 822 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, while Montréal-Nord had 2,715.
This explosion of infections in underprivileged areas is thought to be due to overcrowding and higher numbers of people who work in the health sector or at front-line jobs, for example, in food stores or the food industry.
The burden of the quarantine and social distancing measures is harder to bear for vulnerable groups. Your reality during the pandemic will be very different depending on whether you live in a large, comfortable house or have many people in a small apartment that may not even have a balcony. Social distancing is also harder to maintain in a densely populated neighbourhood with more apartment buildings and fewer parks and green space.
In the coming days, weeks and months, Centraide will intensify its support in these neighbourhoods where demands on community agencies are exploding. While we must meet the immense public health challenges to curb the spread of the virus (walk-in screening clinics, distribution of masks), we must not forget the social challenges that are just as great: food security; prevention of distress, violence and abuse; support for young people in difficulty; and more.