March 2, 2021 – 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.
A lull that is cause for concern
The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, is worried that the relative lull in the number of people infected each day is hiding a pending increase, related in particular to the new COVID-19 variants.
The percentage of new variants detected is oscillating between 12% and 15% of cases. The new British variant, which spreads much more easily than the original strain of the coronavirus, is now very present in Québec.
Minister Dubé stated that the U.S. Health Department has advised that while the number of cases has presently stabilized, with the presence of the new variants, this could be a lag as the new variants spread and intensify.
“If the number of cases increases next week, the situation could become very dangerous,” said Mr. Dubé.
The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, compared the risk of the current situation to a “sea that is calm on the surface, but shark infested right below.” Hospitalizations have been increasing for the last three days, which is raising alarm bells.
A weapon in dramatically reducing cases
Minister Dubé hopes that the vaccination campaign, which is gearing up more and more, will serve to counter the spread of the new variants.
The presence of the new variants, especially in Montréal, has been a key factor in Public Health’s decision to intensify vaccinations on the Island of Montréal. The deployment of the vaccination campaign will step up across Québec as the delivery of vaccines increases.
1,400 pharmacies to join the campaign
Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé announced that an agreement with 1,400 pharmacy-owners will make it possible to administer vaccinations in participating pharmacies as of March 15.
COVID-19 vaccinations, much like the flu vaccinations in the fall, will begin in 350 pharmacies on the Island of Montréal. This will be extended to the regions as the vaccines become available and distributed on the basis of population. Vaccinators will be prioritized in receiving a vaccination.
Pharmacies could administer up to two million doses of the vaccine over the next four to five months.
Book an appointment
Minister Dubé also called on people to book an appointment and respect their time slots to avoid creating waiting lines at designated vaccination centres.
The online appointment system is working very well, while the phone centre was overwhelmed with calls, which unexpectedly rendered it inoperative. This has reportedly been resolved.
No more than one person may accompany seniors during their vaccination appointments.
Minister Dubé called on people to accept the appointment they are offered, given that there are seven million people to vaccinate, two times over, as this will facilitate the process.
The mass vaccination campaign will be very costly, Mr. Dubé said, but could not specify an amount. He explained that the cost is not a major concern because the vaccinations will save lives.
Masks for elementary students
Upon their return to school after spring break, elementary students will be required to wear a surgical mask in the classroom, one that is lighter and better adjusted to their faces.
Dr. Arruda said that this new standard has been introduced to protect children, but also because the new variants spread very easily and children could become transmitters.