Quebec reported 44 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus Saturday, the highest daily death toll in nearly a year.
The sharp increase from a day earlier, when health officials reported 27 deaths, marks the worst tally since Jan. 27, 2021, when 45 deaths were reported.
The province also cited an 11 per cent rise in COVID-19-related hospitalizations as the Omicron variant continues to surge.
There are currently 2,296 patients with the disease — 163 more than the prior day — with 245 people in intensive care, a rise of 16 from the day before, health officials said.
The province reported 15,928 new cases of COVID-19, as health workers administered an additional 100,892 vaccine doses.
Amid the Omicron wave, the Quebec College of Physicians urged the province to "step up the pace" of measures that limit the public's exposure to unvaccinated individuals.
"The vaccinated population can no longer suffer in silence from the constraints of sanitary measures while unvaccinated people occupy one in two beds in short-term and the majority of beds in intensive care," wrote college president Dr. Mauril Gaudreault.
Gaudreault also backed a future requirement for third doses in order to hold a vaccine passport, stating in a letter Friday that the measure should take effect faster "and cover a vast set of shops and public places."
On Thursday, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced that proof of vaccination will be necessary to make purchases at Quebec's liquor and cannabis retailers starting Jan. 18. He said he also plans to add non-essential services, "such as personal care," to the list.
His federal counterpart, Jean-Yves Duclos, went even further on Friday, saying a potential compulsory vaccination is “the only way out” of the health crisis but noting the decision lies in the hands of the provinces.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2022.
The Canadian Press