There were between 18,000 and 32,000 new COVID-19 infections per day last week across Quebec, according to an estimate released Friday by a Montreal-based research center.
The results of the CIRANO study should encourage Quebecers to take the sixth wave of the pandemic seriously, said in an interview Roxane Borges Da Silva, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal who worked on the research.
The Quebec government, she added, should reinforce its messaging on COVID-19 and reconsider its plan to lift mask mandates in mid-April.
“This is a very significant increase – not insignificant and concerning – especially for those who are vulnerable to COVID and health workers,” she said.
Late Monday, the Prime Minister appeared to be leaning in that direction, telling reporters “of course we have to continue to be careful.”
Francois Legault said cases have increased in recent weeks and the government is reconsidering its plan to lift mask mandates next Friday.
“I have a meeting with public health experts tonight and we may extend mask-wearing for a few weeks after April 15.”
The exact number of cases presented in the study, which covered the period from March 24 to 29, is difficult to confirm, said Borges Da Silva, but the trend is clear: the data indicates an increase in cases of between 20 and 40%. % compared to the previous week.
The research center, which is made up of academics from various universities, surveys 3,000 people a week to ask if they have tested positive for COVID-19.
Borges Da Silva said she fears the rise in cases will affect the healthcare system.
“Even if it’s 0.001% of people who end up in hospital out of 20,000 cases, that’s still a lot of people,” she said.
On Friday, the Quebec government said there were more than 11,000 health care workers furloughed due to COVID-19, up from 8,600 announced at a government press conference on Sunday.
“The shortage (of manpower) and the significant increase in the number of health workers who have contracted COVID in recent weeks are affecting the supply of care,” the Ministry of Health said in an e-mail. mail.
No plans to reimpose restrictions
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the province does not plan to reimpose public health restrictions. The jump in cases was expected, Dubé said last Thursday, adding that Quebecers must learn to manage their own risk.
Borges Da Silva said the government was unlikely to consider further restrictions because it knew more about the Omicron mutation than during the fifth wave of winter, when it imposed a curfew and closed many businesses .
She said other reasons include the fact that more Quebecers are being vaccinated now compared to winter and that European countries have not seen large increases in patients in hospitals.
Over 90% of the eligible population (five years and older) received one dose of the vaccine, while 87% received two doses. Only 53% received three doses.
“They also take into account the fact that we have been in a pandemic for two years and that there are an enormous number of (economic) sectors that have suffered,” she said.
As a public health expert who also considers the mental health aspect of restrictions, she says she understands the need to avoid more closures.
She says, however, the government has gone “from one extreme to the other” and hasn’t done enough to urge people to be careful, self-isolate at the first sign of symptoms and ask for reminders.
“The mask is an inexpensive measure, not very restrictive, but very effective,” she said. “But if we take it off, it will be difficult to put it back on.”
Dubé announced on Friday that pharmacists can now prescribe the antiviral drug Paxlovid to COVID-19-positive patients who are at risk of developing complications, in a bid to help reduce hospitalizations and deaths among the most vulnerable.