Quebec's public health director is encouraging the population to take certain steps to prevent the spread of viral infections when more than just COVID-19 variants are circulating in the province and putting a strain on the health network.
Dr. Luc Boileau said during a news conference Thursday that people should stay home if they are sick — whether it's a cold, the flu or COVID-19. They should not go to work, school or be out in public, he said.
If people feel better but still have symptoms like a sore throat, stuffy nose or a cough, they should wear a mask when out in public, he said. This applies to children in school, people at work and anybody out in the community, he said.
"If you have symptoms, wear a mask," he said.
"It can last several days. It can last a long time. It can last a dozen days. But we wear a mask at this time to protect others."
Boileau said people should avoid unnecessary activities, like going to the movies or out for dinner, when they have symptoms.
He said people with symptoms should avoid contact with those who are vulnerable to serious illness, and should maintain a physical distance from everybody else.
"No matter what symptoms we have, we keep a distance from others," Boileau said.
He said these are simple measures people can take to curb the spread of illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu. It's a collective responsibility to protect each other and the province's health system, he said.
Vaccinations should be up to date
Meanwhile, people should be making sure their vaccinations are up to date, be it for COVID-19, influenza or others they may be eligible for, Boileau said.
People should also have rapid tests at home to test for COVID, he said. Those who are positive are expected to isolate for five days, and he said, they should be wearing a mask for at least 10 days.
The province is bracing for the flu season, likely to begin before Christmas, while still managing the viruses that are currently circulating, he said.
"Please be careful," he said.
The goal is to promote a common-sense approach, said Dr. Jean Longtin, a microbiologist with the Quebec Health Ministry, who sat beside Boileau during the news conference.
He said it's a moral responsibility to not go out and put people at risk of getting sick.
"A similar matter to don't drink and drive, don't go out and sniffle," he said.
Hospitals over capacity in Quebec
The public health director's request comes at a time when most hospitals in the province are operating over capacity and the Quebec government has been working to address the long wait times in emergency rooms.
Earlier this week, Dr. Antonio D'Angelo, the head of emergency at Sainte-Justine children's hospital in Montreal, said the situation is distressing — and does not appear to be getting better.
D'Angelo said his hospital is seeing 250 to 300 children every day. Many of them require hospitalization, but he said they also struggle to find beds for them, saying some wards are "completely full."
"We have nursing shortages everywhere — and we're very, very concerned about the safety of the patients in our emergency rooms," he said.