Quebec’s acting director of public health said all signs point to Quebec heading for a sixth wave of COVID-19.
At a press conference on Sunday, Dr. Luc Boileau failed to confirm another pandemic wave of infections, but said the spike in cases in recent weeks caused by the Omicron BA.2 variant suggests that another is imminent.
Boileau said he would wait until a few weeks to hear from experts at the Institut de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) before announcing it.
“We are not in the same situation as in December and January, but public health is following all of this very closely,” he said, noting that the BA.2 variant is even more contagious than the Omicron strain. of origin.
“The increase in variant is concerning.”
The health network in particular has been affected by its spread, he said.
In less than a week, 8,600 healthcare workers were absent due to illness and mainly due to COVID-19, representing a 60% increase in absences.
Regions such as Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean, the Côte-Nord, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Bas Saint-Laurent, and the Capitale-Nationale have all seen a surge in cases.
Although Montreal has seen a smaller increase in hospitalizations than other regions, Boileau said the spread of the variant is noticeable across the province.
He said the BA.2 variant could soon be responsible for at least two-thirds of COVID-19 cases in Quebec.
Boileau said after reviewing projections from the Institut public de santé du Québec (INESSS), the current trend suggests that the number of hospitalizations in the province will likely continue to rise.
No new measures
Quebec does not intend to reintroduce public health restrictions from previous waves, he said.
“Each person must act responsibly, according to their situation for themselves and for others.”
Despite the spread of the variant, Boileau confirmed that the province plans to lift public masking requirements on April 15, as planned.
“It’s normal to have waves for this kind of infection,” he said. “Let’s try to live with it now.”
He said most of the current outbreaks in the province stem from public and private gatherings and reminded Quebecers to be careful about the risks they take.
“The time to go to work, even if you have cold symptoms, is over now,” he said. “We have to stay at home. It’s a matter of respect.”
People who are adequately vaccinated and who show symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to isolate themselves at home for at least five days. Those who are not fully vaccinated are asked to self-isolate for 10 days.
Although a fourth dose is offered to residents of CHSLDs and residences for the elderly as well as to people aged 80 and over, Quebec does not recommend one to the general population.
“We do not plan to increase the population other than those [mentioned] for the benefit of the fourth dose right now,” he said. “But in the future, in a few weeks to a few months, that might change.”