Quebec premier asks people to avoid big New Year gatherings, get boosters

·2 min read

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault urged people to keep New Year's gatherings small and seek out COVID-19 booster shots as soon as they're eligible while he received his third dose at a Montreal vaccine clinic.

Quebecers between the ages of 60 and 64 — including the 64-year-old premier — became eligible for boosters Monday, as long as their last jab was at least three months ago.

The premier appeared cheerful as he waved at workers and members of the public before sitting down to receive his shot at a vaccine clinic at the Olympic Stadium.

Legault said studies have shown that three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine provide about 75 per cent protection against the highly contagious Omicron variant, compared with about 30 per cent after two doses.

However, he pointed out that "75 per cent isn't 100 per cent," and asked Quebecers to make additional efforts in the coming weeks to ensure the province's hospitals don't become overwhelmed.

"It’s important to be careful, not see too many people, even on New Year’s," he said.

"We have to protect our hospitals."

Health authorities reported 8,231 new COVID-19 cases Monday, as well as 10 additional deaths. The surge in new cases is being driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which accounts for the vast majority of infections in the province.

Experts have warned that the true number of cases is likely higher, given that many public health units have reached their testing capacity limits.

Quebec imposed restrictions starting Sunday to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Restaurants and private gatherings are limited to six people or two-family bubbles. Outdoor gatherings can include no more than 20 people.

Legault had said the province could bring even tougher restrictions if the situation worsens.

Earlier Monday, Quebec's health minister asked people to limit their contact with others after hospitalizations rose dramatically over the holiday period.

Christian Dubé reported on Twitter on Monday that 320 people were admitted to hospital while 179 were released between Dec. 22 and 26 — a rise of 141.

"Admissions are rising," he said. "We must limit contacts."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2021.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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