Quebec’s interim director of public health said a new round of vaccinations is on the way to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Luke Poelho, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, said residents of long-term care homes and retirement homes will be the first to receive further support by early next week.
He said anyone from Quebec aged 80 or older would have access to the new dose, as would those who depend on home care through the public health system.
Boelu said cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again, and the risk of contracting and transmitting the virus remains high.
“I am asking you all to be careful,” Boileau said, describing Omicron subsidiary BA.2 as a “game changer.”
The variant is 30 to 50 percent more contagious than Omicron, he said, which is why cases are increasing everywhere.
Boileau hesitates to describe the recent rise as the sixth wave
Boileau said he asked provincial health authorities on Tuesday to prepare for the expected surge in cases and a new round of vaccination, but insisted it was too early to say if the county is experiencing a sixth wave.
He said he expects a spike in cases and hospitalizations, but it won’t be as bad as the fifth wave.
“Let’s wait before we start talking about the sixth wave,” Boelho said. He said public health officials will have a better understanding of where this increase is headed in the coming days.
Boileau has remained positive about the situation in Quebec, saying that a large percentage of the population has been vaccinated, and that the province is carefully working to scale back public health restrictions while keeping key measures in place.
“We are not surprised by the rise in cases in hospitals,” Boelho said.
He said rapid tests are available for free in pharmacies in Quebec, and encouraged people to take advantage of that service if they develop symptoms.
#covid19 – En date du 22 mars, voici la status au Québec: https://t.co/pwoUoaBgaF pic.twitter.com/rBwshkaHbq
There was hope that the mask requirement could be rescinded as early as this month, but Boileau said the mandate would remain in place until mid-April as planned and a few weeks after that for public transit.
In the past 24 hours, Quebec recorded 2,111 new cases, which is an underestimate, since the PCR test for the general public was Stopped in early January. Tests remain available for those in high-risk settings such as hospitals, long-term care homes, detention centers and homeless shelters.
The positivity rate also increased by 13.3 percent. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the positivity rate decrease and stay below five percent for at least two weeks before public health restrictions are eased.
Booster shots help curb transmission
Jan Longtin, a microbiologist at the Ministry of Public Health, who spoke at a briefing on Wednesday alongside Boileau, said the second booster dose is recommended for the elderly to prevent outbreaks among the elderly.
Marie-France Renaud, the department’s chief medical strategic advisor, said school-aged children are not experiencing an outbreak, and transmission is mostly between adults at the moment.
That’s why it’s important to administer the booster shots now, she said, as it has been shown to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Francois Legault said there were no plans to enact new public health measures.
When it comes to mask authorization, he said it’s up to Public Health to make recommendations, and if Boileau wants to keep the rule until April 15, the county will.
Legault said he will personally continue to wear the mask, and “it is important that everyone wears a mask.”
“We have to be careful,” he said. “So far, we haven’t seen any additional measures in Europe and usually the situation they’re in is about two weeks earlier than we’re in here.”
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