By Gordon Lambie
Quebec Premier François Legault said that he feels the province will be playing “a whole new ball game” once all residents 65 years of age and older are vaccinated against COVID-19, something he said that the government now expects to be able to achieve within “a number of weeks”. While recognizing that it will still be some time before the majority of Quebecers are vaccinated and remaining non specific about what that number of weeks might be, the premier pointed out that reinforced immunity in the age group widely understood to be at the greatest risk stands to shift the balance in terms of the severity of measures that need to be taken to control the virus. At this point most regions in the province (including the Estrie) are only allowed to vaccinate people who are aged 75 or older, including those who will turn 75 this calendar year.
Legault opened Tuesday’s press conference by saying that it was, “an emotional day” because of the approaching anniversary of the declaration of emergency measures. Making reference to the day of remembrance and ceremony planned for March 11, the premier took some time to reflect on the past year and the decisions that have been made in the name of public health. He briefly acknowledged that there were ways Quebec could have done better, but then proceeded to compare the province’s death toll to those of several nations or states with similar populations or economic situations that have fared worse.
Looking ahead, Legault and his companions, Health Minister Christian Dubé and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda, spoke in cautiously positive terms about the future while also pointing out that any contagion and spread that took place over the province’s March break will not start to become evident until at least the end of the week. Legault, for example, shared that an announcement about the loosening of restrictions on school sports can be expected Friday, but he added the caveat that any changes are subject to the situation continuing to improve in the coming weeks.
Dubé, meanwhile, stressed the importance of continuing to go get tested if experiencing symptoms. The Health Minister said that the number of people going to get tested has been in decline and argued that, especially as the province works to keep the spread of variants under control, testing remains a vitally important source of information. At this point, he added, 18 per cent of all tests conducted in Quebec are turning up variants. Although this represents a rise, he said that the figure remains in an area where it can be considered “under control.”
In the mean time the rapidly evolving age limits and details surrounding the vaccination campaign are prompting some questions about who qualifies to get the shot and where.
As of this writing those people who were born in 1946 or earlier are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in the Eastern Townships. This group is expanded to include those born as recently as 1951, however, if that person is also serving as a caregiver to a person in the target age group at least three days per week. People in the priority group (75+) need to make an appointment to get their vaccine, whereas caregivers should simply accompany the person they are helping to receive a shot the same day. Caregivers are registered after the registration for the priority individual, but vaccination at the same time is guaranteed for those who follow the proper procedure.
Vaccination appointments can be reserved online through the clicsante platform, www.clicsante.ca. Help with the registration process is also available over the phone between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. from Monday to Friday or 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The relevant local numbers are 450-644-4545, 819-644-4545, and 1-877-644-4545 (toll-free).
The Province of Quebec recorded 650 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of people infected since the start of the pandemic to 293,860. Of that total, 276,602 people had recovered and 6,765 were considered currently active. The total number of deaths, meanwhile, climbed by 12 to 10,493, while the number of hospitalizations decreased by 14 to 576. As of Tuesday’s information there were 110 people in intensive care across the province, an increase of two over the previous day.
Tuesday’s records also added another 16,357 doses of vaccine, increasing the total to 581,028 out of the 739,065 doses received by the province to date. These figures account for just under seven per cent of the population of the province. The most recent information available indicates that 21,149 vaccine doses have been administered in the Estrie Region.
The figures on COVID-19 variants available through the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) were adjusted downward yesterday after validation confirmed a number of duplicate records under the presumptive cases column. As such, although the number of confirmed cases remained at 255 (four of which were in the Estrie) the number of presumptive cases decreased from 1,732 to 1,543.
There were 20 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the Eastern Townships on Tuesday, bringing the regional total to 11,710, with 180 active cases. The region reported no new deaths, maintaining the total at 308 since the start of the pandemic, and the number of hospitalizations remained stable at 23, with two people in intensive care.