Quebec's new restrictions take effect as the province records almost 8,000 new cases

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MONTREAL — Quebec's new and tighter COVID-19 restrictions took effect on Sunday as the province struggles to combat a surge in cases due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Among the new rules, restaurants and private gatherings are limited to six people or two-family bubbles. Outdoor gatherings are to be kept to a maximum of 20 people.

The province reported about 8,000 cases on Boxing Day and three more deaths.

Quebec's open data portal said the province has had 538,206 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and a total of 11,667 deaths.

Officials had said earlier that the daily numbers are likely an underestimation because the province's testing centres are overwhelmed and can't keep up with demand.

Details on COVID-19-related hospitalizations and vaccinations will be released next week.

Premier François Legault had asked people on Dec. 22 to avoid multiple gatherings on Christmas as much as possible, while he announced the further restrictions that would come into effect after the holiday.

Long-term care homes, known in Quebec as CHSLDs, and private seniors' residences have also tightened restrictions.

Residents of long-term care homes are allowed only two visitors a day. But they can have only one visitor at a time.

Private seniors' residences can have two visitors at a time but are restricted to four people a day.

Several hospitals, including two major health-care networks in Montreal, are also struggling with the surge in cases and said they would be restricting visitors starting Boxing Day.

The McGill University Health Centre said in a release it was limiting visitor access to the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital and the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital.

"For a two-week period, visits will only be allowed in end-of-life situations or based on the clinical judgment of the care team," said the health centre Friday.

The University of Montreal Hospital Centre said visits to patients have been suspended, with exceptions to end-of-life care, medical assistance in dying and childbirth.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 26, 2021.

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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