Quebec has announced new restrictions as cases of COVID-19 increase at a dizzying pace with the Omicron variant taking hold as the dominant strain.
Premier François Legault said at a news conference Wednesday that Quebecers would need to limit private gatherings to six people – or two families – starting on Sunday, Dec. 26.
The same limit per table will apply to restaurants, which have been operating at half capacity since Monday.
He said the current 10-person limit will remain in place for Christmas but he was urging people to delay their parties if they could, or limit gatherings to one celebration either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Legault’s announcement comes just two days after a rise in cases and hospitalizations forced the closure of schools, bars, gyms, theatres, spas and capacity limits on restaurants and places of worship.
Legault said in just one week, daily cases have gone up from 2,000 to over 6,000. He warned that number was expected to surge to more than 9,000 on Thursday when the latest daily COVID-19 cases are released.
He said pandemic hospitalizations have also increased significantly in just one week from 309 to 445.
Legault said the main concern was with people aged 60 and over.
“Seventy per cent of people in hospital for COVID are over the age of 60, especially people who haven’t had their third dose” he said.
Modelling predictions by Quebec’s health institute (INSPQ) released earlier in the day and based on various scenarios, show that Quebec’s health-care network could easily be overwhelmed in the next few weeks.
The institute says that while the transmission of the Omicron variant could be reduced through a combination of strong public support to public health measures, a faster rollout of third doses of COVID-19 vaccines, screening and isolation, there are no guarantees.
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Given the uncertainty regarding the severity of Omicron, the INSPQ said hospital capacity overrun is a possibility even with the measures announced on Dec. 20 and the speeding up of booster shots.
“We think that the measures we’re announcing tonight are enough to maintain control in hospitals, but we won’t hesitate in the coming days if necessary to add more measures,” Legault said.
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