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COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know this weekend

Rapid test deliveries to pharmacies are delayed. Starting Monday, many big-box stores in Quebec will require a vaccination passport for entry. Here's what you need to know.

Rapid test delivery delayed, big-box stores to require vaccination passport Monday

Premier François Legault is expected to announce a return to in-person dining Tuesday. Restaurants across the province were forced to close their dining rooms on New Year's Eve. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)
  • On Sunday, Quebec reported 3,283 people in hospital (a decrease of 12 from the previous day), including 273 in intensive care (a decrease of two from the previous day).
  • The province reported 5,141 new cases of COVID-19 and 33 deaths.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 835,630 confirmed cases and 12,799 people have died.
  • The province also reported Saturday a total of 17,218,748 doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered, including 100,951 in the last 24 hours.
  • 90 per cent of the eligible population in the province (ages five and up) have received one dose of the vaccine, 83 per cent have received two doses, and 39 per cent have received three doses.

The new cases are those reported to the Quebec government only. They are believed to be an underrepresentation of the virus's spread, given the limited availability of PCR tests and use of home testing kits.

Starting Monday, many big-box stores in Quebec will require a vaccination passport for entry.

In a bid to persuade COVID-19 vaccine holdouts to get the jab, Quebec has expanded the vaccine mandate to include all businesses with surface areas of 1,500 square metres or more — with the exception of groceries and pharmacies. 

The province's health ministry released a ministerial decree detailing the parameters of the new directive Sunday night. 

For pharmacies located in big-box stores, such as Walmart or Costco, an unvaccinated person must be "accompanied at all times during his or her travels by an employee of the business, the pharmacy or any other person mandated by them for this purpose," the decree reads. This person may not purchase products other than those related to the pharmaceutical service they are receiving.

Gas stations affiliated with big-box stores and vehicle service stations are also exempt from the vaccination requirement. 

Monday afternoon, Lionel Carmant, Quebec's deputy health minister, will be announcing a plan for unvaccinated Quebecers to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, though the ministry has not provided any details on what it will consist of.

Rapid tests delayed

The delivery of three million rapid tests in Quebec will be delayed for at least three days, according to the head of the association representing pharmacy owners. 

According to Benoît Morin of the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires, the millions of rapid tests expected to arrive Saturday will only reach pharmacies by Tuesday or Wednesday. 

He says the latest delivery should cover the demands of most pharmacies with waitlists.

Another delivery of at least three million tests should arrive next week. 

Restaurant restrictions

As of today, Quebec businesses are allowed to resume operations after being forced to close for three consecutive Sundays.

Restrictions on restaurant dining in Quebec have not yet been lifted but hundreds of Quebec bar and restaurant owners are considering reopening anyway. 

Renaud Poulin, head of the Corporation des Propriétaires de Bars, Brasseries et Tavernes du Québec said in an interview that he has received calls and emails from hundreds of businesses wanting to know the consequences for reopening in defiance of government directives.

"There are financial consequences, but they're so desperate about losing everything, it might be the only solution left to them,'' he said.

While Ontario has announced a plan to ease restrictions, Premier François Legault said Thursday the situation in Quebec is still too fragile to follow suit, even though hospitalizations appeared to be peaking.

COVID-19 cases could be five times reported number

The number of daily COVID-19 cases in Quebec could be five times the official amount being reported, according to a new study.

A group of researchers with the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en analyse des organisations based their findings on an online poll of 3,000 people between Jan. 13 and 18. 

The researchers extrapolate that roughly 262,000 people in the province contracted the virus during that period, based on results from PCR tests, rapid tests and self-diagnosis, compared with the official tally of 48,815.

The researchers say they will repeat the survey over the next four weeks to follow the evolution of the situation.

Quebec stopped making PCR tests available to the general public earlier this month after they overwhelmed during the Omicron surge. 
While vaccinations have been available for children ages 5 to 11 in Quebec since November, uptake has been slow in many regions, including Laval and Montreal. (Jonathan Cherry/Reuters)

Laval aims to boost lagging child vaccination rates

Door-to-door "brigades" will be visiting homes in Laval to try to persuade parents to get their younger children vaccinated, ahead of a next round of in-school vaccinations next month. 

Laval has the lowest vaccination rate for children between the ages of 5 and 11 of any region in Quebec.

Just 51 per cent of Laval children in that age group are vaccinated, just behind Nunavik, Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec, Montreal  and Chaudière-Appalaches, according to figures from Quebec's public health research institute, INSPQ.

Jean-Pierre Trépanier, regional public health director for Laval said in addition to phoning parents, the door-to-door teams will offer information in several languages, including Arabic, Armenian, Turkish and Spanish. 

"We have to give the right answers, the right way they can hear it and understand it," he said.

But some data suggest that despite these efforts, child vaccination rates will not reach the same levels as adult rates. 

Surveys conducted by the INSPQ since September show that the percentage of parents willing to vaccinate their children ages 5 to 11 has remained stable at 55 per cent.

A COVID-19 testing lab in Montreal was overwhelmed with tests and couldn't analyze them all within 72 hours. The tests were ultimately destroyed. (Stéphane Mahé/Reuters)

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What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

       
  • Fever. 
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  • New or worsening cough. 
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  • Difficulty breathing. 
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  • Sudden loss of smell without a stuffy nose.
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  • Gastrointestinal issues (such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting).
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  • Sore throat
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  • Generalized muscle pain.
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  • Headache.
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  • Fatigue.
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  • 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.

You can find information on COVID-19 in the province here and information on the situation in Montreal here

 

With files from La Presse Canadienne and Radio-Canada

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