Quebec reported 2,386 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, the highest number so far in the current wave, and the positivity rate for tests soared overnight to 5.8 per cent.

The daily caseload is the highest since 2021's peak in early January. The last time Quebec recorded more daily cases was Jan. 8, when it saw 2,759 new infections, according to the province's retroactive calculations (the daily numbers are always higher at the time they'e reported).

In the last 24 hours, the province has had four more deaths due to the virus. There are now nearly 16,000 active cases.

Quebec is also beginning to see a rise in local Omicron cases, with 13 more presumed cases of the new variant.

Two schools in the Montreal area are closed due to potential Omicron infections, and Montreal health authorities will give a briefing later in the day.

There has been a rise in hospitalizations, with a net increase of 16 people admitted to hospital, but two fewer people are in intensive care.

Overall, that brings the new hospital totals to 309 inpatients overall, and 73 in the ICU.

The majority of the newly infected are fully vaccinated. Of the new cases, 983 were among people either unvaccinated or with a single dose that hadn't yet taken effect. Another 86 had a single dose that had taken effect.

More than half, 1,317, were among people who had gotten a second dose at least seven days ago.

However, the unvaccinated have a far higher risk of being hospitalized with the virus -- if infected, they're 14.6 times more likely than the vaccinated to end up in hospital, according to Quebec's daily statistics, which look at the last 28 days of hospitalizations.

The current daily case rate is now outpacing the rate this time last year, but deaths and hospitalizations are still far lower. On this date in 2020, Quebec reported 1,897 new cases, but 43 deaths from the virus, with nearly 1,000 people in hospital.

HIGH DEMAND FOR VACCINATION, TESTING

Demand for both COVID-19 testing and for vaccines is climbing quickly. In the last 24 hours, 48,977 new vaccine doses were given to Quebecers, including more than 11,000 to kids under 12.

Overall, 45 per cent of Quebec kids from age five to 11 have now had a first shot.

Another 32,676 booster shots were given, including 24,236 to people over 60 -- though the vast majority of those were likely over 70, since the 60-plus age group won't be eligible in Quebec until early January.

More than 40,000 people sought COVID-19 tests, creating long lineups at testing clinics around Montreal.

The positivity rate of 5.8 per cent is the highest since Jan. 18, when it was 6.1 per cent. Generally, public health authorities have been treating 5 per cent as an alarm threshold in the positivity rate.

EASTERN TOWNSHIPS HARDEST HIT

The hardest-hit region in Quebec is now the Eastern Townships, by a large margin: that area now has a rate of 324 active cases per 100,000 people.

Nunavik, which was slammed with high case rates throughout the fall, has now dropped to a rate of 236, lower than several regions.

Chaudiere-Appalaches is second-highest, with a rate of 284, and Laval is third, with 247.

Montreal has a rate of 225, and Mauricie-Centre-du-Quebec has 205. 

--With files from The Canadian Press