Quebec shutting down schools, bars, gyms as COVID-19 cases soar

Quebec is shutting down a number of industries, along with in-person learning at schools, over skyrocketing cases of COVID-19 and an increase in hospitalizations.

Health Minister Christian Dubé announced that bars, cinemas, concert halls, gyms and spas will be closed as of 5 p.m. on Monday.

Remote working, which was strongly recommended, is now being made mandatory.

Restaurants, which began operating at half capacity on Monday, can stay open between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Sports performances, whether amateur of professional, will be held without spectators.

Schools are also being closed with a return to in-person classes scheduled for Jan. 10, 2022. Any classes in the first week of January will be held online. Grade schools, however, remain accessible until the Christmas holidays as the distribution of rapid tests and the vaccination of kids between the ages of 5 and 11 continue.

Quebec reported a record 4,571 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and a total of 397 pandemic-related hospitalizations.

“We’ve already reached half our capacity for our COVID beds,” Dubé said. “And that is not counting the rise in cases from the last 10 days.”

The health minister explained it wasn’t so much about the number of COVID-19 patients but the staff required to treat them.

“What we want to avoid is delaying emergency care, surgeries,” he said.

In addition to the new measures, Dubé said vaccination continues to be crucial for getting the province out of this situation.

“We’re lucky that so many Quebecers have accepted to get their two doses but we’re facing a new variant and that’s why we have to go get a dose of protection,” he said.

Dubé said two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine affords about 30 per cent protection against the Omicron variant while a third dose boosts protection up to 75 per cent.

The province opened up booster shots to people 65 and over on Monday, with 83,000 bookings recorded after only a few hours.

The province is hoping to make five tests per 30-day period available to every Quebecer aged 14 and over.

The distribution of rapid tests in pharmacies also kicked off on Monday, with long lineups and supplies running out quickly.

Dubé asked that parents who received rapid test kits through their children’s elementary school or daycare hold off on getting more kits from pharmacies to allow everyone to get kits.

He also repeated that rapid tests should only be used by people who are experiencing symptoms.

“This is really important to clarify that people using rapid tests must be symptomatic for these tests to work properly,” Dubé said.

He added that many people are clogging up testing centres unnecessarily by getting screened only so that they can gather throughout the holidays.

Dubé reiterated that people should instead look at reducing their contacts.

While the 10-person limit for private indoor gatherings over the holidays remains in place, Dubé wouldn’t make any promises.

Health officials will be reviewing new modelling predictions Monday evening, which could lead to further restrictions if necessary.“We’ll have additional information and based on that … we’ll take again tough decisions,” he said. “We don’t like that, but I think the only way to manage this crisis is to react as quickly as possible with the resources that we have.”

Source: Global News

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