By Gordon Lambie
Students across Quebec got an early start to their Christmas holidays on Monday afternoon, as a part of several additional public health restrictions that came into effect that same day.
In a press conference held through videoconference, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced expanded measures including the closing of all bars, performance venues and gyms, as well as an early start to the holidays for students, and delay in the return to class until January 10.
The measures announced also included the complete closure of bars, taverns and casinos as well as cinemas, performance venues, gyms and spas. Telework was also made mandatory, whereas it was reintroduced as a recommendation last week, and amateur and professional sports matches were barred from having live audiences. Restaurants will also have to close by 10 p.m.
The province recorded an unprecedented 4,571 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, almost 3,000 more than were reported at the same time the previous week. This brought the number of active cases in the province to 26,143.
There were 397 people in hospital across the province, an increase of 21 from Sunday, with 82 people in intensive care.
The province also recorded three new deaths, for a total of 11,642.
According to Dubé, the province has already reached 50 per cent of its Covid bed capacity in hospitals without any sign that the increase in hospitalizations is going to slow down. The additional measures, he said, are part of an effort to get the climb under control, although he said that negative impacts on hospital services are to be expected.
Booster vaccination for Quebecers aged 65 and older began Monday, and those 60 and older will follow as of next week. While calling vaccination one of the critical components of the struggle against the Omicron variant, the health minister also underlined the importance f taking the process one step at a time, so as to not overwhelm an already taxed healthcare network.
The update from the Eastern Townships included 1,150 new cases since Friday and 2,222 active cases. Reports from individual regions across the territory remained high, but more than half of the new cases reported over the weekend came from Sherbrooke, the Haute Yamaska, and the Granit regions.
50.7 per cent of the region’s 5 to 11 year olds had received a first dose of vaccine as of Monday, and there were 41 hospitalized in the townships, up from 35 at the end of last week, with five people in intensive care.
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