A group of Quebec fitness centre owners says its members are no longer planning to open Thursday in defiance of the government’s lockdown orders.
The owners released a statement today calling on their clients to instead join them in a series of protests outside their gyms and fitness studios on Thursday.
On Monday, a coalition of more than 250 gym owners threatened to open their doors this week, prompting a warning from Premier Francois Legault that they and their clients would be fined.
This week Legault extended lockdown orders across regions under the government’s highest pandemic-alert levels – including Montreal and Quebec City – from Oct. 28 to Nov. 23.
Bars, restaurant dining areas, gyms and entertainment venues have been ordered to close.
The gym owners say their protests on Thursday will conform to the provincial COVID-19 health regulations.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
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JERUSALEM—As Israel eases its second nationwide lockdown, a revolt among ultra-Orthodox Jews against public health guidelines is complicating efforts to control the coronavirus outbreak.
Across Israel, schools and most businesses are closed. People are required to wear masks in public, and outdoor gatherings over 20 people are banned. Police and city inspectors patrol the streets, handing out fines to rule breakers. Signs on highway banners and city billboards remind people to wear masks and social distance.
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But on a bright autumn morning in Jerusalem’s ultraorthodox stronghold of Mea Shearim, no police patrolled the narrow alleyways closed off behind stone walls. Thousands of children crowded into schools, and men, young and old, returned to their religious seminaries known as yeshivas, where they study all day. The only common sign in the neighborhood that mentions coronavirus is an advertisement for free ginger to boost the immune system.
“After eight months of not doing what we’re told to do by my government, we’re still alive and healthy, so there’s no reason to close the Torah institutes,” said one ultraorthodox man in his 20s who was chatting outside a yeshiva.
A deep distrust of the government and a desire to preserve a way of life is fueling a broad—but not uniform—backlash against government efforts to impose public health guidelines on the ultraorthodox community. Many members of the community also suspect the virus isn’t so dangerous as to disrupt the rhythms of their insular and conservative communities, in which many men study religion all day rather than work and gather thrice daily for collective prayers.
“When the number of deaths isn’t as large as has been purported, the community prefers slight physical damage rather than a massive spiritual blow,” says Rabbi Pinchas Zaltzman, a religious judge in the ultraorthodox city of Bnei Brak.
The ultraorthodox community hasn’t been immune from the virus that causes Covid-19. While the ultraorthodox make up around 12.5% of the population, they have accounted for up to 65% of infections nationwide in the first wave in the spring and more than 40% in the current second wave, according to a study based on the Ministry of Health data by Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science based in central Israel. At the same time, the death rate per 1,000 individuals in the ultraorthodox sector is about half the rest of the country, largely because government figures show it is a much younger population.
After four weeks of a second nationwide lockdown, Israel was able to reduce the infection rate from more than 8,000 new cases a day to under 1,500. Now Israeli health officials fear the ultraorthodox decision to prematurely open the schools and religious seminaries could lead to yet another lockdown.
A small victory in Miami on Friday could shift the power in favor of businesses who are fighting against local COVID-19 restrictions in South Florida.
Tootsie’s strip club in Miami Gardens won in a civil lawsuit against Miami-Dade County, and will be able to stay open past the county’s coronavirus curfew, which the judge called “illegal.”
The curfew has been in place nearly three months to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms at midnight, which is when clubs typically open. In a number of cases, establishments such as Tootsie’s that stayed open were fined and forced to shut down at midnight.
The situation has been similar in Broward. Earlier this month, nightclub owners demanded answers from Broward Mayor Dale Holness, who said businesses would still have to shut down at 11 p.m. even after Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed South Florida into a Phase 2 reopening.
In Miami-Dade, Judge Beatrice Butchko ruled that Tootsie’s can operate all night because of DeSantis’ statewide decree, which effectively snatched power from local governments to enforce COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.
DeSantis’ order allowed counties and cities to set capacity limits for restaurants, but kept local governments from issuing rules that kept people from working.
“The Miami-Dade curfew orders conflict with [DeSantis’ executive order] because they prohibit Tootsie’s from operating; they prohibit employees and contractors from working; and they reduce capacity to zero for the entire time subject to the curfew,” Butchko wrote in the ruling.
Sports radio host Andy Slater broke the news that Tootsie’s won the suit.
Miami-Dade and Broward imposed the curfews in July to crack down on late-night parties in bars, streets and in private homes. The curfews also affected restaurants that had to close their dining rooms early.
Sun Sentinel staff writer Rafael Olmeda contributed to this report.
Brooke Baitinger can be reached at: email@example.com, 954-422-0857 or Twitter: @bybbaitinger
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