Quebec public health officials expect COVID-19 measures to be relaxed weekly
The number of patients in Quebec hospitals is expected to dip over the next few weeks based on projections, but public health officials warn sanitary measures need to be lifted cautiously and gradually.
The new public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau, gave his first press conference Thursday without the premier and health minister by his side, a move aimed to show more independence from the side of the public health department.
Boileau said based on new projections from the Institut national d'excellence en santé et services sociaux (INESSS) the province can proceed to relax some public health measures “one week at a time” depending on the evolution of the pandemic’s fifth wave.
However, the public health director said it’s “difficult” to provide a calendar of which measures will be lifted and when.
"We have arrived at a pivotal moment in the pandemic," said Dr. Boileau at the press conference, flanked by the interim director general of INESSS, Michèle de Guise, and Dr. Marie-France Raynault, an advisor to public health.
“We have to continue in a way that should be very prudent in the opening of all the things that the population would like us to open. And we're very aware of this and we're working with all the data that are available scientifically and with our own experience. And that's why we can progress week by week.”
On Thursday, Quebec reported a decrease of 117 hospitalizations, for a total of 3,153. INESSS projects COVID-19 hospitalizations could lower to 2,500 by the end of next week if the situation progresses as expected.
The drop in hospitalizations will be “modest” but a sign that the situation is on the other side of the Omicron peak, said de Guise.
In about two months, the world will have lived with COVID-19 for two full years and with Quebecers on the downside of the fifth wave, many are asking when we can return to a normal life.
“I think it could be very fast,” Boileau said Thursday, adding that it all depends on the evolution of the virus in the community and rate of vaccination.
RESTAURANTS REOPENING — BUT WHAT ABOUT GYMS?
On Monday, the province offered a break to the struggling restaurant industry by announcing dining rooms can open at 50 per cent capacity as of Jan. 31. A maximum of four people or two family bubbles can be seated at a table as long as they continue to provide their proof of vaccination. Bans on home gatherings will also be lifted, but with conditions.
Missing from the announcement was any good news for gyms, which have been closed, along with bars and casinos, since Dec. 31, 2021.
Boileau was asked if gyms, like restaurants, could be allowed to reopen with certain conditions, but he said Quebecers need to be a little more patient.
“We are quite assured that it's a place that could be open in the near future. We expect to get there as soon as possible. And we know that the population is really upset or sometimes angry with those measures,” he said.
“But I would say that if we could just be patient a little bit more patient and get vaccinated, it will help all of us to open all those gyms.”
BOOSTER SHOTS CONSIDERED FOR IMMUNOCOMPROMISED KIDS
So far, 42 per cent of people have received a booster dose in Quebec, but pretty soon, some children will be advised to get their third dose as well.
Canada’s national immunization advisory board recommended that children who are “moderately to severely” immunocompromised should receive a third dose to boost their body’s defences.
The new advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on Tuesday comes as more and more children are being sent to hospital with serious symptoms from the virus.
A decision will come in the next few days, Boileau said, on whether Quebec’s immunization board will follow suit.
“I expect myself and my colleagues to support those recommendations,” the public health director said Thursday.
A nurse at the pediatric intensive care unit at the Montreal Children’s Hospital said an uptick in children in hospital beds in this fifth wave “caught us off guard.”
- 'A terrifying experience’: Montreal mother shares ordeal as ICU sees increase of children admitted with COVID-19 in fifth wave
“We are seeing more children get sick with COVID and be sick enough to come to the ICU,” said Dr. Saleem Razack, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Most are very young children who are either not eligible for a vaccine or just had one dose so far.
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