Quebec reports 2,225 new COVID-19 cases, 67 deaths as hospitalizations decline

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MONTREAL — Quebec reported 2,225 new COVID-19 cases and 67 further deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Saturday as the province marked one week since instituting a curfew and tougher public health measures.

In announcing the most recent tally, Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted Saturday that all Quebecers need to continue to follow public health rules to ensure cases and hospitalizations go down.

Quebec has now reported more than 9,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, but hospitalizations dropped for a second day, this time by 22 for a total of 1,474 patients.

There were also four fewer patients in intensive care for a total of 227.

Among the measures introduced one week ago was a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. with police dolling out fines to those who are contravening the order.

A group braved a snowstorm to gather in east-end Montreal to denounce the province's decision to employ a police solution, saying the curfew has a "symbolic effect" but only serves to create a "climate of fear."

Organizers said in a statement the provincewide curfew -- a first in Canada -- is "unacceptable", "absurd" and "dangerous," particularly for the most vulnerable in society.

Earlier this week, Dube said it was too early to say whether the new measures, which will last until at least Feb. 8, are having the desired effect.

The hard-hit province has now reported 240,970 confirmed infections and 9,005 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, with 210,364 recoveries.

Quebec currently has 21,640 active cases.

Meanwhile, the province said it was working on an updated vaccine distribution plan after Dube announced Friday that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine won't be delivered as planned between now and Feb. 8.

The drugmaker is upgrading its European production facilities to increase the number of doses it can produce, meaning a reduction in output.

"This decrease in arriving vaccines implies a revision of the objectives presented in recent days," the province's Health Department said in a statement on Friday. "Teams are actively working to establish a new dose distribution plan in accordance with the vaccination priorities established."

On Thursday, Quebec announced its vaccination rollout, which includes waiting between 42 and 90 days to administer a second booster in an effort to vaccinate as many Quebecers as possible amid mounting pressure on the health-care system.

"The strategy adopted by the public health authorities is to immunize as many people as possible with priority groups," the department said. "All vaccine doses received will therefore be used for this purpose."

Quebec has administered 137,856 doses of COVID-19 vaccine including 62,733 people in the past seven days and 10,783 people on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press