MONTREAL -- The threat of COVID-19-dedicated hospitals being overrun in Greater Montreal is increasingly real, while outside this region, there is a "slight decline" in hospitalizations.

The data appears in the most recent report from the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS) on the impact of the health crisis on hospitalizations in the province.

The findings were published the day after Quebec Premier Francois Legault's announcement of a package of "shock treatment" measures, including the imposition of a curfew starting Saturday, in hopes of breaking the second wave of the pandemic.

The institute reports that between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3, the number of cases of infection increased by 17 per cent compared to the previous week to stand at 17,980.

In the metropolitan area, projections signal a "significant increase in bed occupancy in the coming weeks," warned the INESSS, adding that the "risk of exceeding dedicated capacities" was real, as in more than 50 per cent, within the next three weeks.

The INESSS observed that there were increases in cases in all regions of the province as well as in all age groups, but the increase is higher among people of 70 years and older: 25 per cent.

The number of planned hospitalizations climbed 25 per cent during the same period by 876 compared to the previous week.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2021.