By Gordon Lambie
Quebecers will need to limit their private gatherings to six people or two households, but only the day after Christmas. Despite wide ranging speculation that the 6 p.m. press conference held by Premier Francois Legault on Wednesday would involve further bans and restrictions on holiday gatherings, he ultimately opted to leave the decision in the hands of the population.
Please cancel your Christmas parties if you can,” the premier said, “If you do choose to gather, know that there is a risk.”
Legault said that the number of new cases recorded on Wednesday (to be shared in Thursday’s update) was close to 9,000, and said that an increase in hospitalizations is expected to follow. He shared that 70 per cent of those in hospital are 60 and older, and argued that not gathering is the best way to keep that vulnerable population safe.
For those who do choose to gather, he reminded people to wear masks, limit numbers, keep their distance, and ventilate indoor spaces regularly.
The premier also had harsh words for the unvaccinated, pointing out that the 10 per cent of adults in the province who are not vaccinated represent 50 per cent of those hospitalized.
“We think that the measures we have announced tonight are sufficient to protect the hospital system,” Legault said.
The restriction of six people of two family groups will also be applied in restaurants.
The Province of Quebec reported 6,361 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the number of known active cases to 34,161. With a backlog in testing and the increasing use of at-home rapid tests across the province, however, public health authorities are cautioning that the “daily numbers” are not an accurate measure of the number of people actually infected with the virus at this point in time.
The number of hospitalizations, considered to be a more reliable measure of the progression of the new Covid surge, made another big jump in Wednesday’s report, increasing by 30 to 445 across Quebec. The number of people in intensive care remained stable at 88, but two new deaths were recorded, and the number of outbreaks being monitored increased to 1,498.
The update from the Eastern Townships included 745 new cases since Monday, and saw active cases increase to 2,778. These numbers were also accompanied by the note that, with people in the region having been advised to stick to the results of their at-home tests on Tuesday, the actual figures are likely higher.
There were two new hospitalizations reported in the region on Wednesday, for a total of 43 with six in intensive care, and four new deaths.
Vaccination of 5-11 year olds reached 54 per cent across Quebec, with 352,629 young people having received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and another 19,875 awaiting their appointment. In the Townships that figure was slightly lower overall, at 51.9 per cent, although the Sherbrooke and la Pommeraie sub-regions were actually above the provincial average. Vaccine coverage for the 5-11 year olds remained lowest in the Des Sources and Granit sub-regions, which have also consistently been the areas with the highest rate of infection across the territory.
Wednesday’s was the last detailed update from the local public health department until Jan 5. The provincial public health updates will also be on pause for Dec 24-26 and Dec 31 – Jan 2.