Living with the virus: Quebec health minister pens open letter as COVID-19 cases rise

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MONTREAL — Quebec's health minister penned an open letter Friday, warning Quebecers they would have to learn to live with the novel coronavirus for the foreseeable future and suggesting collective immunity against COVID-19 is a long way off.

Christian Dubé wrote on his Facebook page that he felt a duty to explain the situation to citizens.

"It was believed until some time ago that it would be possible to achieve herd immunity with vaccination," Dubé wrote. "But the mutations of the virus always push back this hope."

More variants of the virus are likely, he said, creating a pandemic that could persist for months or years.

"Instead of looking for the date when all this will end, we will have to learn to live with the virus," Dubé said. "We will have to accept a certain number of cases and a certain number of hospitalizations if we want to return to a normal life."

Daily COVID-19 cases continued to rise Friday in Quebec, with health officials reporting 750 new infections. They had reported 699 new cases Thursday. Of Friday's cases, 83 per cent involved people who weren't adequately vaccinated, according to the Health Department.

Officials also reported two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus and a rise of nine hospitalizations compared with Thursday. They said there are 147 people in hospital with the disease, including 49 patients in intensive care, a rise of seven.

The province said 26,959 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered Thursday. Quebec's public health institute indicated about 87.4 per cent of residents 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine and 81.3 were considered adequately vaccinated.

In his letter, Dubé praised Quebecers for the high uptake of vaccination in the province, adding that Quebec is among the most vaccinated areas in the world.

"We could reach nearly 90 per cent of those 12 and over by the end of September, and as soon as we can vaccinate our youngest, our vaccination coverage will be that much higher," he wrote. But September is going to be critical, Dubé said, because children go back to school and junior colleges and universities resume classes in person.

He called on Quebecers, even those adequately vaccinated, to be careful as forecasts indicate the next few weeks will be trying for the health network, particularly in the greater Montreal area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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