Quebec reports 749 new COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths as province expands vaccine access

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Quebec continued to escalate its vaccination drive over the weekend, reporting Saturday that the past 24 hours had seen it deliver a single-day high of nearly 20,000 shots to its growing list of eligible residents.

The 19,865 jabs administered on Friday mark the most the province has reported in a single day and come as vaccine shipments ramp up across Canada following numerous international shipment delays.

To date, provincial figures show 532,012 doses of vaccine have been administered out of a total of 638,445 received from the federal government.

Provincial health minister Christian Dube highlighted the upward trend in a tweet on Saturday.

"Vaccinations have [increased] over the last few days and will continue to [increase], with other regions in addition to Montreal beginning mass vaccination next week," Dube wrote.

Until recently, Quebec has concentrated its vaccination effort on particular groups such as health-care workers, people living in remote regions and seniors in long-term care facilities.

The government began allowing members of the general public to schedule appointments to receive their vaccines recently, with eligibility varying by region. In Montreal and Laval, for example, people over the age of 70 can book appointments, while slots are restricted to people over 80 in other regions.

More regions are scheduled to expand vaccine access to those in different age groups starting next week.

In addition to the vaccine numbers, Quebec reported 749 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday along with 10 new deaths linked to the virus.

Hospitalizations across the province declined by 16 to 601 over the past 24 hours, while the number of patients in intensive care declined by two to 109.

Quebec's case numbers have stabilized in recent weeks, prompting officials to relax restrictions in some regions.

Starting on March 8, areas such as Estrie and Capitale-Nationale will be designated as "orange zones," meaning the provincewide curfew will be extended until 9:30 p.m. rather than 8 p.m. More businesses, including restaurants, will also be allowed to open at limited capacity.

Quebec premier Francois Legault has said that Montreal and the surrounding areas will not see any imminent changes in public health restrictions, warning that more contagious variants of the virus could prompt a sharp uptick in the number of cases in the region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press