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Omicron's BA.5 variant makes up nearly half of Quebec's new COVID-19 cases

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Quebec's seventh wave is underway and Omicron's latest subvariant, BA.5, accounts for about 43 per cent of new coronavirus cases, according to senior public health advisor Dr. Marie-France Raynault.

Raynault gave a news conference Thursday afternoon to provide an update on the spread of COVID-19 in Quebec, urging residents to maintain caution in the face of a "very contagious" new variant. 

"We expect to have more hospitalizations in the next few weeks," she said.

However, even as hospitals become more crowded with COVID-19 patients, she said the situation is not yet critical, and pointed to the fact that about half of the people in hospital with the virus were admitted for another reason and were later confirmed to also have COVID-19.

"The situation is not so bad in that we don't have that many people in the intensive care units, that's important, but we still have a high rate of transmission."

READ MORE: What is the BA.5 variant and why does it seem to be reinfecting so many people with COVID-19?

For the time being, the province is not planning to reinstate any health-related restrictions. 

"To live with COVID-19 is to live normally, but to take some very easy measures," she continued. 

Those measures should include wearing a mask when social distancing isn't possible. She also encouraged people to play and meet outside, rather than indoors. 

"And of course, get vaccinated," she added. 

READ MORE: Quebec releases new vaccine guidelines as 7th wave begins

MORE DEATHS, HOSPITALIZATIONS

Note -- These numbers are based on a Thursday update from public health. For Friday's numbers, click here

Public health is changing the way it reports hospital capacity by distinguishing between people in hospital for COVID-19 as opposed to those who tested positive after arrival. 

On Thursday morning, it reported an increase of 93 total hospitalizations, with 258 new entries and 165 discharges. There were 1,860 people in hospital with the virus.

However, only 55 per cent of them were admitted for complications directly related to COVID-19, with the remainder being hospitalized for other conditions but tested positive after they arrived. 

"That was not the case in previous waves, in 2020," said Raynault. "There are more people hospitalized with COVID than for COVID."

Meanwhile, there are 45 people with COVID-19 in the ICU, an increase of two from the previous day, with eight entries and six discharges.

Of those, 21 were admitted for COVID-19, while the others tested positive later on.

The province also reported 18 more deaths related to the virus, bringing that total to 15,726 since the pandemic began.  

VACCINATION CAMPAIGN CONTINUES

On Thursday, Health Canada approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for infants and preschoolers, making it the first vaccine authorized for that age group in the country.

It's currently unclear when vaccines will become available to this age group in Quebec, and the province is still awaiting recommendations from its immunization committee, the CIQ, on how to roll out booster vaccinations for young children. 

Raynault said the province has "all we need" to effectively deliver the shots, except for one thing.

"Not all people are trained to vaccinate babies," she said, adding that the province is considering new training for nurses to provide services for younger clientele.

"It's not the same thing to vaccinate an adult as it is to vaccinate a nine-month-old."

With files from CTV News Montreal's Lillian Roy.

 

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