'We are in a third wave' of COVID-19, says Quebec health minister
MONTREAL -- Quebec is in the midst of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister Christian Dube said Monday.
As the province recorded another 891 cases of the disease and a recent upward trend in infections, he confirmed what the premier had predicted would come just a few days ago.
"There's no question, we are in a third wave," Dube said at a news conference, alongside Montreal public health director Mylene Drouin.
"But what we can do in a third wave is control it. To fight as hard we can against the variants."
There are 705 confirmed cases of variants in the province and 6,480 presumptive cases, according to provincial data.
The health minister made the remarks Monday while visiting a community centre that has turned into a testing and vaccination site to serve vulnerable populations.
That area of Montreal, also one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods, was a COVID-19 hot spot in 2020 and had the highest rate of infections per capita in the city.
For the health minister, the vaccinations there are more about "quality" rather than quantity, he said. The "rolling clinic," or pop-up clinic, will be at another location on Tuesday.
The pop-up clinics began on March 25, a spokesperson from the Nord-du-l'Ile health district told CTV. They're meant to give vaccines to those who wouldn't otherwise make it to one of the mass vaccination sites.
"The concept is to bring the vaccine for one day to a place identified as a target clientele according to various factors, such as the vaccination rate, the presence of variants, [or] the socio-economic vulnerability of a neighbourhood," said the spokesperson, Séléna Champagne.
They advertise the upcoming clinics through hyperlocal door-to-door efforts, calls and neighbourhood signs, in conjuction with local organizations.
From March 25 through April 3, "we plan to administer approximately 1,000 doses in a dozen pop-up clinics in the Montreal-Nord, Saint-Laurent and Villeray sectors," Champagne said.
The health minister said the province's overall vaccination campaign is going well, with records set in recent weeks.
“I think Dr. Drouin has proven in the last month or a few months, that since the variants are with us, that we were able to control them in Montreal, compared to what happened in Toronto, as an example. I'm just gonna touch wood because when we do that, suddenly things will change,” he told reporters.
“But, I think Dr. Drouin and her team has demonstrated that we can go after those variants with the good and best practices that she has been doing so, that was the reason we were here today.”
Yet with just under 15 per cent of the Quebec population having their first shot, some say the vaccination isn’t going fast enough, while others say the province is rushing too quickly in relaxing restrictions.
In red zones, places of worship were recently allowed to welcome up to 250 people indoors and gyms have recently opened up again, along with a relaxed curfew in Montreal from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. High school students are also going back to class full-time as of Monday.
The province said it’s a balancing act between keeping people safe from the virus and prioritizing their mental health.
“We question ourselves every day on that,” he said. “We're not opening gym or we're not opening, schools, just to be nice. We're just doing it for mental health.”
“If you look at the way students react, the way they are coming back to school today, seeing their friends, this is a good part of the reason we're doing that because we want people to be happy. And it's tough what they went through over the last year.”
--With files from CTV's Cindy Sherwin