A more transmissible COVID-19 variant is spreading in the Lower Saint-Lawrence, and the region's public health director says some patients are much younger than those who typically get sick from the virus.
A total of nine people in the region are in hospital after contracting the coronavirus. Some of them are in 30s and 40s, and one patient is a two-year-old, according to Dr. Sylvain Leduc, the region's public health director.
"If some people needed proof that variants are more transmissible, the Lower Saint-Lawrence is that proof, unfortunately," Leduc said. "It hits hard."
Leduc says it could take weeks to get the situation under control.
Officials did not specify the type of complication the toddler suffered or whether they were hospitalized as a preventive measure.
Children rarely experience complications from COVID-19. In Quebec, since the start of the pandemic, 172 children in the nine and under age group have been hospitalized in connection with virus, according to provincial data.
On Tuesday, the Lower Saint-Lawrence region reported 30 cases linked to variants, and in many sectors, they make up nearly all of the recent infections, Leduc said. He also said those cases are likely all linked to the variant originally detected in the United Kingdom.
Six schools are experiencing outbreaks, but nine have been close due to some schools lacking staff as a result of people needing to self-isolate. More than 750 students and school staff have been asked to stay home in recent days.
"This virus [variant] leads to more secondary cases than the previous strains. For example, when we had a family where someone was sick, it did happen that the virus was not transmitted to other members of the family," Leduc said.
"In the case of the variant, there's almost no one that escapes it."
Schools aren't the root of the problem, according to Leduc, private gatherings are, and he is urging residents to "roll up its sleeves" and follow the rules. The Lower Saint-Lawrence is designated as an orange zone, where private gatherings are still banned.
"Everyone is fed up, but the virus is not going to turn around and leave just because we're fed up," he said.
With the COVID-19 vaccination campaign being concentrated in the Montreal region and other red zones, the Lower Saint-Lawrence is among the least vaccinated regions of Quebec, with only 8.8 per cent of residents having received a first dose.