MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he isn't ready to commit to a COVID-19 Christmas plan as the province attempts to hold back a second wave of the novel coronavirus.
The province reported 1,218 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 25 more deaths attributed to the virus, six of which had occurred in the previous 24 hours.
Legault said daily case numbers had appeared to plateau at around 1,000 for several weeks after the province last month closed bars, restaurant dining rooms and gyms in so-called red zones. But over the past week, the province has averaged 1,297 new cases a day — with a high of 1,448 reported on Saturday.
"The good news is about the hospitalizations," Legault told a news conference Monday. "We're still under 600, which is a lot less when we compare ourselves with other states in the United States or in Europe."
Monday's figures indicated hospitalizations rose by four, to 591, and 87 people were in intensive care, a drop of two. Officials said another 1,150 people had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total to 105,998.
The evolving situation is under close scrutiny as the province attempts to decide whether to loosen restrictions for the holiday period.
Radio-Canada reported that the government is considering extending the Christmas holiday for students, from mid-December to mid-January and allowing indoor gatherings of up to 10 people from three separate addresses. Legault confirmed the information but said that was only one scenario among several being discussed.
Quebec's red-zone restrictions — which affect most of the province — are in effect until at least next Monday. "So far, it's going … not bad, I should say with our health-care system," Legault said. "So, for now, I think it's OK. We're still in control, but we follow the evolution every day."
Quebec has reported 125,072 infections and 6,651 deaths linked to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
About half the active outbreaks reported in the province were tied to workplaces, about 30 per cent were tied to schools and another 14 per cent were connected to long-term care homes or seniors residences. Government data indicates there are a dozen long-term care homes and a dozen seniors residences where at least 25 per cent of residents have active cases of COVID-19.
As of Friday, 1,300 classrooms in the public and private system had been closed; there were 3,362 active COVID-19 cases involving students and staff.
Health Minister Christian Dube said Monday on Twitter that infection rates are dropping in some regions, such as Quebec's Eastern Townships and the Mauricie region, northeast of Montreal.
"We continue to see improvements in some regions, but these good days must translate into a downward trend," Dube said. "That's why we’re asking everyone to continue their efforts to break this second wave."
The regions to report the highest number of infections on Monday were Montreal (285), Saguenay (187), followed by Monteregie and Lanaudiere, with 140 new cases each. Those four regions accounted for 57 per cent of the 9,034 cases the province reported last week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2020.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press