Quebec government asks companies to delay return to office as COVID-19 cases rise

·3 min read

MONTREAL — Quebec is asking companies across the province to reconsider sending employees back to offices until the COVID-19 situation in the province improves, warning that a large percentage of outbreaks in previous waves occurred in workplaces.

The province has entered a fourth wave of the novel coronavirus, the Health Department said in a news release on Wednesday, adding that there is a heavy presence of the Delta variant.

"It would be more prudent to postpone the gradual return of employees to workplaces that has started recently," the department said.

Montreal public health director Mylène Drouin told reporters Wednesday she agreed with the Health Department's announcement, adding that 50 per cent of the daily cases being reported in the city involve the Delta variant.

"It's just one measure that we are adding to make sure that we are not putting oil on the fire and to try to reduce the incidence of outbreaks in those settings," Drouin said about delaying office work.

In her first COVID-19 briefing since June, Drouin said students haven't returned to school yet but the city is already seeing more cases than at the same point last year. About 53 per cent of Montrealers between the ages of 12 and 17 are vaccinated, she said, and she urged teachers and families to help increase that rate.

"We will need to have a close look at the impact of reopening the schools and see if we have to add more measures," Drouin added.

But the high vaccination rates in the city should protect hospitals from being overwhelmed, she said. "Vaccination will likely bring us to a whole new situation compared to other waves regarding hospitalizations."

Drouin said the test-positivity rate in the city is around three per cent but noted that in a few districts the rate is about five per cent.

Meanwhile, Quebec reported 550 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday after reporting 345 on Tuesday.

Health officials said the overall number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by eight across Quebec, to 110, and 33 people were in intensive care, a rise of four. Health Minister Christian Dubé told a radio station in Montreal earlier on Wednesday that 19 people had entered hospitals in the past 24 hours.

The province said it administered 26,748 doses of COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday. Quebec's public health institute says about 78.8 per cent of Quebecers over 12 are adequately vaccinated.

The smartphone applications that will run Quebec's vaccine passport system became available Wednesday for download by Apple users.

Starting Sept. 1, residents 13 years old and up will be required to show proof of vaccination to access businesses the government deems non-essential, such as gyms, bars and restaurants.

Residents have been emailed a quick response code by the Health Department as vaccination proof, which can be linked to the application, while businesses will be required to download a special application to read the codes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2021.

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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