Quebec enters seventh wave of COVID-19

As Quebec enters the seventh wave of COVID-19, the province's health minister says the situation is "under control for the moment" but is urging residents to be "vigilant."

"We are not here at all to reimpose health measures," Health Minister Christian Dubé said Thursday during a news conference. "We've said all along that we need to live with this COVID."

The health minister said that isolating when sick and keeping up to date on vaccinations is key to curbing this latest surge of the virus and protecting the most vulnerable members of the community, including the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. 

On the latter, he announced the province will soon release new guidance on its website for people to help them decide when they should seek booster doses of the vaccine to ensure they are protected from the latest Omicron variants that are spreading in Quebec and elsewhere in the world.

Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec's public health director, joined the health minister for the media briefing Thursday morning. The pair has not been side-by-side for COVD-19 updates in quite some time.

Quebec's hospitalizations surpassed 1,500 on Thursday—a number not seen since May, according to Quebec's public health institute (INSPQ).

NEW WAVE COULD PEAK IN WEEKS

This new wave, however, is not expected to persist for much of the summer, Boileau predicted openly.

"The evolution should curve down during the month of July, but there are uncertainties about that and we will follow the situation very carefully," he said. 

The rise is nonetheless happening as more and more health-care workers are being reported absent from work due to COVID-related reasons. On Thursday, the number reached more than 7,300.

Boileau highlighted the prevalence of subvariants of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus—BA.4 and BA.5—that is being blamed for surges in other countries.

The more contagious variants account for a growing proportion of variants across Canada in recent weeks. According to the latest data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), BA.5 accounted for 20.4 per cent of cases as of June 12. By that date, BA.4 represented about 7.4 per cent of cases.

A month prior, each of those variants accounted for about 1 per cent of cases.

The province explained Thursday that while the two subvariants are proving to be more contagious, they don't appear at this time to be more virulent than previous variants. This is the bar Quebec is using to decide whether or not to bring back more public health measures, Boileau told reporters.

"If there's a variant that shows that it's a deadly one, that we calculate that there's a risk of increasing the risk for the system and the people, their mortality, morbidity, then it will certainly bring back some very new [measures]," Boileau said.

"But this is not what we're what we are facing right now."

PEOPLE NOT RESPECTING ISOLATION RULES: PUBLIC HEALTH

The public health officials attributed some of the blame for the rise in infections on people not respecting isolation guidelines. "That explains the current wave," Boileau said.

"Clearly, there are a lot of people who are not respecting the rules."

Boileau reminded the public that once symptoms are observed, a complete isolation of five days is necessary.

After that, infected people should wear a face mask for another five days during any social interaction since people who test positive remain contagious for 10 days.

On Thursday, Quebec reported the positivity rate remained stable at 14.5 per cent as it logged 1,755 new infections from PCR testing, which is reserved for priority clientele. 

The province is also monitoring 339 active outbreaks of the virus across Quebec. On Tuesday, COVID-19 outbreaks caused the closure of three Quebec sleepaway camps

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