Montreal

At least 2 million Quebecers infected with Omicron variant, health officials estimate

Quebec's interim public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau, says vaccine passport and mask requirements will be in place until at least March 14 in the province. After that, he says, "We'll see."

Luc Boileau says it's possible nearly half of all Quebecers have had COVID-19 since pandemic began

Quebec's interim director of public health, Dr. Luc Boileau, said Wednesday the province estimates as many as half of all Quebecers have been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic began — most of those in the recent fifth wave. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's interim director of public health said he estimates at least two million Quebecers have been infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic's fifth wave in December, and in fact, it's likely that nearly half of all Quebecers have been infected with some form of COVID-19 since the pandemic was first declared.

Dr. Luc Boileau told a news conference Wednesday that using "some direct and some indirect" indicators, provincial health officials conclude that anywhere from two to 2.5 million Quebecers have been infected in recent weeks.

"That's a lot. This means that, in all probability, about 25 per cent of the population would have been infected recently," he said.

"If we add those who have been infected in the previous four waves, we surely exceed 40 per cent, and we're getting close to and perhaps reaching 50 per cent."

Boileau said that number, coupled with the increase in the number of Quebecers who have received booster doses over the last month, means now is the right time to begin lifting restrictions in the province.

"The risk still exists. However, the risk is calculated, and everyone must be part of the equation," Boileau said.

"It's not over. It won't be over for a while. I mean, the coronavirus will still be in our society," he said. "We'll have to live with it."

He said that's why masking and vaccine passport requirements will stay in place until at least March 14.

After that, he said, "We'll see."

WATCH | Dr. Luc Boileau explains the extent to which Omicron has swept through Quebec:

Boileau says massive case estimate led to easing of restrictions

6 months ago
Duration 0:57
Quebec's interim public health director says millions of Quebecers were infected with the Omicron variant, and as a result the current wave should subside.

Province tracking more transmissible Omicron subvariant

Boileau said one factor to consider is what happens with the more contagious BA.2 Omicron subvariant.

Jean Longtin, a microbiologist with the provincial Health Ministry, told reporters Wednesday BA.2 is already present in Quebec.

"We've been monitoring the numbers of some BA.2 samples taken from some major hospitals throughout the province, including the Montreal area," Longtin said. "There are signs of BA.2 coming in as we speak."

Longtin said BA.2 is about 30 per cent more transmissible than the original Omicron variant, but he said there's no evidence that it's more virulent.

Boileau said given that, he didn't think Quebec would be returning to full lockdown measures anytime soon.

"Of course, we do not know if there is going to be another major variant that will come in the future. Let's hope not," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Rukavina

Journalist

Steve Rukavina has been with CBC News in Montreal since 2002. In 2019, he won a RTDNA award for continuing coverage of sexual misconduct allegations at Concordia University. He's also a co-creator of the podcast, Montreapolis. Before working in Montreal he worked as a reporter for CBC in Regina and Saskatoon. You can reach him at stephen.j.rukavina@cbc.ca.

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