COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know this weekend
14 cases of omicron detected in Montreal and threat of omicron worsens
- Quebec reported 1,753 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and one new death.
- Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 466,443 confirmed cases and 11,608 people have died.
- There are 262 people in hospital (an increase of 11), including 68 in intensive care (an increase of five).
- As of Friday, the province has administered 13,898,636 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- 87 per cent of the eligible population in the province (age five and up) has received one dose of vaccine, and 81 per cent has received two doses.
Note: Quebec's vaccination rate has been adjusted to include five- to 11-year-olds, causing the overall percentage to drop. Vaccinations for the group began last week.
Quebec's Health Ministry does not publish the number of vaccines administered on weekends and public holidays.
Montreal's public health department says 14 cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant have now been detected in the city — and only five of them are associated with travel outside the country.
They say that means the others acquired it in Canada, which suggests limited local transmission.
The news of the variant's spread comes as Quebec reported more than two-thousand new COVID-19 infections for the first time in nearly 11 months.
The latest federal modelling shows that if it's assumed omicron is three times more transmissible than delta and becomes the dominant strain, then the number of daily cases in Canada could hit 26,000 by mid-January. Currently, the daily case count is around 3,300.
Chief public health officer Doctor Theresa Tam says Canadians should plan for small gatherings this Christmas.
The Quebec government has announced an easing of public health rules for this holiday season.
As of Dec. 23, parties can include up to 20 people who are fully vaccinated.
But the health minister said it is still important to limit contacts and behave responsibly.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says those planning to travel over the holidays should expect delays and hassle at the airport and be aware that the situation could suddenly worsen.
"If they're thinking of travelling (omicron) should be a serious alarm bell, a serious concern for them," Duclos said. "It's going to be uncertain and risky."
Omicron tests in LaSalle
Montreal public health is asking people who may have visited a LaSalle community centre or a gym in Kirkland at certain times to get tested for the omicron variant of COVID-19.
The two places in question are Buzzfit Kirkland, located at 3240 Jean-Yves Street and the Centre culturel et communautaire Henri-Lemieux located at 7644 Édouard Street in LaSalle.
You can find out more about the specific dates and times as well as the testing sites here.
Quebec's health minister is urging people not to panic even though the province recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since mid-January on Thursday.
Dubé said the spike in case numbers was to be expected, after the province loosened certain health restrictions last month. He said he expects the situation to stabilize when more children aged five to 11 are vaccinated.
The number of cases in Quebec increased sharply by 29 per cent compared to last week, according to INESSS, a government health-care research institute known by its French acronym.
The number of new hospitalizations could increase across the province in the coming weeks, INESSS said in a projections report released Thursday.
Still, compared to the second wave of the pandemic, the report revealed hospitalizations are down 81 per cent.
With the government easing gathering restrictions in time for the holidays, Gilbert Boucher, head of Quebec's association of emergency medicine specialists, says we need to remember that last year was "very chaotic for everyone in the health-care system."
"We need to be careful because the virus is out there among the little ones. And if we're not careful, we will reach the 2,000 [cases] and above number for sure."
Rapid tests for Quebec kids
Quebec's Health Ministry has announced that all preschool and elementary school students will be receiving rapid COVID-19 screening tests that can be used at home.
Starting this week, tests will be distributed to school boards and service centres in Montreal, the Eastern Townships, Chaudière-Appalaches, Lanaudière, the Montérégie and the Laurentians — regions where the epidemiological situation is "more worrisome," according to the Health Ministry.
As the holidays approach, each student will be given a kit in their school bag that includes five tests as well as the materials and instructions for performing them. Rapid tests, which provide results in as little as 15 minutes, may be used for children who have any symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.
Distribution will be carried out by the Health Ministry and will take place gradually. Other regions will receive the tests starting the week of Dec. 13.
Since rapid tests are deemed to be less reliable than those used in the laboratory, in the event that a child tests positive, parents must make an appointment to have the diagnosis confirmed at a screening centre.
COVID-19 holiday enforcement
Police officers across the province will be out in great numbers over the next two weekends to ensure people in restaurants and bars comply with COVID-19 health measures.
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said in particular, officers will be ensuring that the establishments are checking customers' vaccine passports.
The checks will take place particularly on Dec. 9, 10 and 11 and Dec. 16, 17 and 18.
Guilbault asks the public to be respectful in order to ensure the holiday celebrations go smoothly and safely.
"It is important to maintain safe behaviour during the holidays, for our health and to get us out of this pandemic as quickly as possible," she said in a Thursday press release.
The Quebec government has announced that health-care workers can now get their booster shots.
Health Minister Christian Dubé, public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda and Daniel Paré, director of the vaccination campaign in Quebec, held a news conference Tuesday to announce the details.
Currently in Quebec, booster doses are only available to people over 70, those with weakened immune systems and people who had received two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
But people age 60 and over will have to wait for the beginning of January to get theirs. Dubé said the reason for the delay is that the province has just enough staff right now to administer vaccines to seniors, young children and those already eligible for boosters.
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is strongly recommending a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Canadians 50 and older.
The recommendation also extends to health-care workers, Indigenous people and those living in congregate-care settings and all those who only received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The committee is also recommending Canadians age 18 to 49 get a third mRNA shot at least six months after they got their second.
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- Vaccines won't be mandatory for teachers, school staff as Quebec COVID-19 situation improves
- Doctor convinced vaccine hesitant patient attendant to get her shot with patience and respect
- Take a look inside: How a Montreal hospital deals with ongoing staffing shortages
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- New or worsening cough.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Sudden loss of smell without a stuffy nose.
- Gastrointestinal issues (such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting).
- Sore throat
- Generalized muscle pain.
- Loss of appetite.
If you think you may have COVID-19, the government asks that you call 1‑877‑644‑4545 to schedule an appointment at a screening clinic.
To reserve an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, you can go on the online portal quebec.ca/covidvaccine. You can also call 1-877-644-4545.
With files from The Canadian Press and Radio-Canada