• Measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus have largely emptied Montreal city streets.
  • The governments of Canada and Quebec have promoted social distancing as the best way to protect vulnerable residents and ensure that the healthcare system isn't overloaded.
  • These photos nevertheless demonstrate the impact of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emptied the streets of the usually bustling city. While Montreal residents huddle in their homes, landmarks and downtown streets, normally crowded with tourists and businesspeople, sit almost abandoned. On Thursday, March 19, local photographer Théo Cohen captured this lifelessness in a series of haunting photos.

His images of Ville-Marie, shared over nine thousand times on Facebook, capture the enormous impact of the novel coronavirus and of the precautions to prevent its spread. 

But though social-distancing has cleared Montreal roads and sidewalks, the city is hardly alone in its desertion.

Photos of cities around the world show similar scenes. 

Before and after shots of tourist destinations and drone footage of eerily still cityscapes demonstrate the magnitude of the worldwide effort to contain the virus.

In Montreal, Cohen's images are a testament to both the public effort and government action to prevent gatherings.

The pictures, shared below with permission, show a city "on pause," in the words of Quebec Premier François Legault.

In Old Montreal, a lack of activity puts new, unsettling emphasis on the cracks on the streets and narrow sidewalks.

The opposite is true closer to Square Victoria, where wide, modern avenues built for heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic sit unused.

A modern ghost town.

Before shopping malls closed, the Eaton Centre was already empty.

And though the metro continues to run, few are using it.

Despite low ridership and a petition demanding its closure, the STM has committed to maintaining metro service so that healthcare professionals can get to work.

Tourist and cultural sites are closed.

The city's vast public gathering spaces, ready to accommodate thousands, now only welcome a few walkers and essential workers.

More of Cohen's work is visible on his website and Twitter page.

More information on social distancing rules and recommended hygienic precautions is available on the Government of Quebec's website here.

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