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December 29, 2020 – Provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Québec government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional checks on travellers

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, announced that the federal government has reached an agreement with Québec in order to increase checks on travellers coming from abroad.

Three additional measures have been agreed on and should be implemented in early January: a pre-flight screening test at the airport with travellers not being allowed to board if they test positive; a test when arriving at Montréal’s Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau Airport and at Québec City’s Jean-Lesage Airport; and better quarantine tracking once these passengers have entered the province.

However, Minister Dubé is calling on the federal government to apply these measures before the beginning of January. “If it were up to me, it would be tomorrow morning,” he said.

The minister stated that government leaders as well as the population are shocked by the images of people partying down south in complete disregard of the health guidelines. Since the population was warned not to travel abroad, the government will not cover any special medical costs or any expenses related to accommodation or repatriation if these individuals come up against any of these challenges.

Increased contagion and saturation feared for January

Minister Dubé is worried about the fact that the virus is continuing to spread at an alarming rate in Québec, since many hospitals have almost reached their saturation point in terms of the number of beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients.

“If the situation continues to intensify, we’re going to have to further reduce treatment for those in need of medical care that is not COVID-related. We are not heading in the right direction,” said Mr. Dubé.

The average daily count has been hovering around 2,200 people, 1,000 of which are in the Greater Montréal area. “We’ve also noticed an uptick over the last few days. At this rate […], we’re going to hit a wall in January in terms of our hospital network,” said the minister of Health and Social Services.

Mr. Dubé stated that the pandemic is continuing to worsen day by day despite the fact that the vast majority of Quebecers are following the health guidelines and the lockdown that has been in place since December 17. In all, only 197 tickets were issued in the province due to gatherings.

New COVID-19 variant in Québec

A Québec woman was diagnosed as a carrier of the new COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom and increasingly widespread around the world, which is prompting fear of an increase in the spread of the virus.

The new variant is up to 74% more contagious than the original strain.

High-performing vaccination campaign

Minister Christian Dubé pointed out that the vaccination campaign has been running efficiently, in keeping with expectations, and that the organizational framework is designed to vaccinate a large portion of the population.

Québec received 55,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s very low-temperature vaccine and will have vaccinated 27,000 people by Thursday the latest. The vaccine must be administered in two injections, two weeks apart.

However, negotiations are underway to allow all of the doses available to be used right away so that the maximum number of people can be vaccinated instead of waiting two weeks. Dr. Arruda stressed that the experts seem to think that a slightly longer interval for the second dose would be acceptable.

“However, I can assure you that won’t be taking any risks with the health of Quebecers,” he said.

Extending the lockdown beyond January 11?

As the pandemic rages on in Québec, the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, said that it is still too early to determine whether the lockdown measures put in place between December 17 and January 11 will be extended.

“New measures, like the closing of non-essential businesses, have been in effect since December 25. It’s only the 29th. We have to wait and see what impact these measures will have had,” he said.