Quebec reports 3,631 COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations jump as Legault urges unity

·3 min read

MONTREAL — Quebec reported a jump in hospitalizations and a second day of more than 3,500 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, as Premier François Legault defended his decision to introduce tougher measures this week to combat the Omicron variant.

Quebec reported 3,631 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. That fell just shy of the province's pandemic record for daily infections reported Friday of 3,768 cases.

The seven-day rolling average for cases in the province is 2,521.

Health officials reported a big jump in hospitalizations to 347 patients, an increase of 35 patients. Of those, 74 were listed in intensive care, an increase of 12 compared to the previous day.

Legault reintroduced a series of measures coming into effect on Monday to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus and said experts have told the government that Quebecers will need to cut their contacts by half.

Plans to increase indoor gathering limits during the Christmas holiday were also shelved for a second year in a row, maintaining the maximum at 10 people instead of increasing to 20.

"I know that I disappointed a lot of people and you may be mad at me or the situation, that's OK," Legault wrote in a Facebook post to Quebecers, adding it's not something that leaves him indifferent.

"I prefer to give you hope than to disappoint you, but my duty is to tell you the truth and to make decisions, no matter how hard or unpopular."

Faced with modelling that shows Quebec hospitals could be hit hard in a matter of weeks, Legault said he made the decision to reintroduce measures. That includes cutting capacity in half for retail, bars, restaurants, churches and entertainment venues, and banning Christmas parties, karaoke and dancing in bars and restaurants.

"What we all realized this week … is that the Omicron variant is advancing at breakneck speed," Legault said. "It’s hard to imagine, something so overwhelming has never been seen since the start of the pandemic."

On Saturday, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante confirmed she'd tested positive for COVID-19, one day after announcing she was self-isolating because someone close to her had tested positive. Plante said she would continue to work virtually.

"The Omicron variant is very contagious," she wrote on Twitter. "Let us remain cautious and respect the public health rules. We will make it through this wave together."

Quebec's test positivity rate stands at 8.9 per cent, with big lineups outside test centres on Saturday. The province completed more than 46,794 tests on Friday and rapid tests will be available as of Monday in 1,900 pharmacies in the province.

Legault called for a Christmas truce: an end to social media attacks for a few weeks and a renewed focus on reducing contacts, getting a booster and doing what's necessary to reduce the impact on the health network.

Quebec has moved up booster doses for those 60 and older from January to next week and will make COVID-19 booster doses available to residents under 60 in January. Until now, a third dose has been offered to those over 70, to health-care workers, and the immunocompromised. The province has also announced it will cut the interval between the second and third dose from six months to three.

According to the Health Department, 88 per cent of Quebecers aged five and older have received at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, 81 per cent have received at least two doses and seven per cent have received a booster.

"Let's take a break to focus on what we have to do in the next few weeks," Legault wrote. "Reduce our contacts, get a third dose, do everything to relieve our caregivers and take care of each other. It would be a nice collective Christmas present for each other."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting