Quebec sets another daily record, adding 6,361 COVID-19 cases

“The capacity of the testing centers have risen enormously,” said Jean-Nicolas Aube, from the local health authority in Montreal, about testing sites at overcapacity as cases in Quebec skyrocket. Brittany Henriques reports.

By The Canadian Press and CityNews staff

Quebec reported a record 6,361 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday ahead of an evening news conference by Premier Francois Legault, at which, he has hinted, further restrictions could be announced.

Health officials say there have been two more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus and hospitalizations rose by 30 to 445, with 88 patients in intensive care _ unchanged from the previous day.

Wednesday’s count was nearly 1,300 cases higher than on Tuesday, and the latest surge pushed Quebec past 500,000 total cases since the pandemic began in 2020.

The day after Quebec’s public health institute said the more transmissible Omicron variant now accounts for around 80 per cent of new infections in the province, the institute published projections showing a rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations.

TheInstitut national de sante publique du Quebec said the epidemiological situation in Quebec in December was ripe for spread of the Omicron variant: protection waned for those with two doses of vaccine; few people had received a third dose; and contacts increased after certain health measures were scaled back in November.

Legault wrote on Twitter Tuesday that Quebec faces “very difficult choices” and said the government’s decisions would be announced Wednesday. On Monday, the province abruptly closed bars, gyms and schools and warned that further restrictions could be coming, depending on new projections on the spread of the virus and its impact on hospitalizations.



Premier François Legault will be speaking at 6:00 p.m., an event which CityNews Montreal will be airing live on television and our website.

Dr. Eric Litvak said models are showing a rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations. Even with the measures and restrictions announced earlier this week and a push to get third doses in arms, it’s impossible to rule out hospital capacity being overrun.

“We’re definitely looking at something that is going to happen quickly, in the following days and weeks,” said Litvak, vice-president scientific affairs at the institute.

Litvak said in an interview there remains uncertainty surrounding the severity of Omicron. In South Africa, where the variant originated, cases have dropped noticeably in recent days and medical experts have noted the variant appears to have peaked.

But it is possible that previous exposure to the Delta variant, which circulated much more in South Africa, has led to higher natural immunity. The South African population is also younger than Quebec’s.

“It’s still very early, and when you look at the global situation, the rapid rise of Omicron cases is still very recent. It’s a matter of days,” Litvak said. “I think it’s really too early to be able to reach any clear conclusions on how bad it might be in terms of hospitalizations, and the following seven, 10, 14 days are going to be extremely valuable to try to better understand that.”

On Wednesday, a Quebec government health-care research institute said its projections suggest that within three weeks, the occupancy of regular beds and intensive care beds for COVID patients could reach 80 per cent of the peak observed in January 2021, cautioning those rates could be even higher given the rapid increase in cases.

Restaurant owners in Quebec will be nervously watching Wednesday’s announcement, worried that they’ll have to close, said Martin Vezina, the spokesman for an industry association.

He said many members of the Association Restauration Quebec stocked up on food ahead of the usually busy holiday season, only to see capacity cut in half last week and a 10 p.m. closing time implemented on Monday.

“It’s a waiting game, you don’t know, and I’m sure they are more pessimistic than optimistic that they will be open,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Quebec has asked the federal government to provide military support as it attempts to increase the pace of administering third doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Late Tuesday, federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the rising case counts in Quebec are deeply concerning and the federal government will work with the province.

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