It seems money motivates. On the day that the premier announced an anti-vax tax, Quebec saw a spike in first vaccine dose appointments, according to Health Minister Christian Dubé.
In a Wednesday morning tweet, the minister said 5,000 people made appointments on January 10 and 7,000 made appointments on January 11, the day of the announcement — "the highest number in several days," he noted.
Dubé called the figures "encouraging."
Vaccination :\nLes prises de rdv pour la 1\u00e8re dose continuent d\u2019augmenter. Environ 5K rdv ont \u00e9t\u00e9 pris le 10 janvier et 7K hier, notre record depuis plusieurs jours. Les rdv ont \u00e9t\u00e9 pris dans toutes les tranches d\u2019\u00e2ges. \n107K doses administr\u00e9es hier \n\nC\u2019est encourageant!
— Christian Dub\u00e9 (@Christian Dub\u00e9)
The upcoming fee for Quebec adults who refuse to get a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be an additional "health contribution" to compensate for the disproportionate burden the unvaccinated are placing on the health care system, Premier François Legault said Tuesday.
He noted that while only 10% of the adult population is unvaccinated, people without a vaccine dose occupy 50% of intensive care unit beds.
"All adults in Quebec who don’t accept to go get at least a first dose in the upcoming weeks will have a bill to pay because there are consequences on our health network," the premier said. He assured that people who can't receive a vaccine for medical reasons will be exempt.
Legault said the tax would be "significant" but didn't clarify how much exactly. He also did not say when the "bill" would go out.
The anti-vax tax is just the latest measure the Quebec government is imposing on the unvaccinated. On January 18, the provincial liquor and cannabis stores, the SAQ and SQDC, will require the vaccine passport. Dubé warned other businesses will require customers to have the health pass in the coming months, too.
Is Quebec on track for a Valentine's Day gift? Though Premier François Legault said Thursday that the province isn't yet in a place that would allow the government to lift more Quebec COVID-19 rules, interim public health director Dr. Luc Boileau suggested that could change by mid-February.
In an interview on Radio-Canada program Tout un matin Friday morning, the director told host Patrick Masbourian that public health experts are currently "working extremely hard to try to weigh" the risks associated with higher numbers of infections and hospitalizations "to make them compatible with a loosening of restrictions."
Pressed by Masbourian, Dr. Boileau predicted that a gradual reopening could begin before the middle of next month, but cautioned that he still has to consult with other public health officials.
He also rejected the idea of presenting a reopening calendar in the near future, saying he couldn't anticipate COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers. The reopening of Quebec elementary and high schools on January 17, he explained, could have an effect on the epidemiological situation.
Public health experts are nevertheless "confident we are on the right path," Boileau continued.
The province reported decreases in the total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations on January 20 and 21 after weeks of what the Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) called "exponential growth."
The institute's latest projections suggest new daily hospital admissions could drop to around 200 within the next two weeks. Quebec tallied 346 new hospitalizations on January 21.
Total COVID-19 hospitalizations, meanwhile, could drop to 3,000 in the same time period, down from 3,351 on January 21.
Quebec's anti-corruption agency (UPAC) and the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) are currently investigating the production and use of fake vaccine passports throughout the province.
Minister of Public Security Geneviève Guilbault spoke on Radio-Canada's Tout Un Matin, revealing that the UPAC and SQ have 150 investigations in progress on cases of fraudulent vaccine passports. While she could not provide an exact number of false vaccine passports currently in circulation across Quebec, Guilbault stated that each file could potentially contain "several fakes or several people involved in fraudulent schemes."
Of the 150 investigations currently in progress, an estimated 30 are linked to internal corruption, the minister said.
When asked how a fake vaccine passport could be identified, Guilbault said that the UPAC and SQ are taking a number of criteria into account to evaluate the legitimacy of a vaccine passport, including two doses listed in a single day, incorrect intervals between both doses, and vaccines administered late at night or during hours in which vaccination clinics are not in operation.
Guilbault made it clear that the act of producing or using a fake vaccine passport can have serious consequences.
In a press release shared on Wednesday, the Unité Permanente Anticorruption issued a warning to "people who may be tempted to produce, traffic or use false vaccine passports."
The UPAC voiced the severity of consequences, stating that "people who commit these actions could violate several articles of the Criminal Code, including the production and use of false documents, breach of trust and corruption, as well as criminal offences under the Public Health Act."
Penalties could include fines and jail time, according to Guilbault.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
Health measures in Quebec will not be changing in the immediate future, according to Premier François Legault. Despite a slowdown and, most recently, a slight decrease in hospitalizations, the situation is still too fragile to justify relaxing Quebec COVID-19 rules, he said.
"We seem to have reached the peak of hospitalizations today at last," he began in a press conference Thursday afternoon. "Yes, we can predict a decrease in hospitalizations soon, but for the moment we are at the worst of the pandemic with 3,400 hospitalizations."
Legault acknowledged Quebecers who are antsy for things to return to normal as soon as possible.
"You wouldn't believe the number of people who write to me, who call me, who talk to me, who tell me they're fed up, who would like the measures to be lifted," he said, reiterating that to do so now would significantly risk the chance of more infections and hospitalization throughout the province.
"We are at 3,400 hospitalizations and we are missing about 12,000 health care workers, so we cannot afford to relax the measures."
The latest numbers and projections offer at least some encouraging news.
Quebec reported 14 fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations on January 20 — the first decrease in weeks. The Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) also said Thursday that though the number of hospitalizations remains high, it appears to have plateaued after weeks of what the institute called "exponential growth."
In the next two weeks, the INESSS forecasts new hospitalizations will drop to 200 per day, down from 353 in the January 20 report. It also expects a "stabilization" in intensive care unit occupancy.
Total COVID-19 hospitalizations could decrease to 3,000 in the next few weeks, as well.
The INESSS cautions, however, that its projections don't take into account the reopening of elementary and high schools on January 17, a factor Legault said Thursday could "have a small effect" on infections.
In its January 20 report, Quebec reported a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations for the first time in weeks. There were a total of 3,411 COVID-19 hospital patients, 14 fewer than the day before. 285 people were in intensive care — that number remained unchanged.
The January 20 daily report comes as the Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) releases its latest hospital occupancy projections. The institute noted that though hospitalizations are still high, they seem to have plateaued between January 8 and 14.
In the next two weeks, the INESSS projects the number of new patients admitted to a hospital every day will drop to around 200 (Quebec reported 352 new hospitalizations on January 20). Total hospitalizations, meanwhile, will drop to "about 3,000," according to the forecast — "still well above the level 4 [occupancy level] recently defined by the Ministry of Health," the INESSS says.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care is also expected to stabilize.
The INESSS notes, however, that these projections don't take into account changes in health measures, nor the potential effects of the reopening of Quebec elementary and high schools on January 17.
The province also tallied 6,528 new COVID-19 cases on January 20, though official case counts are considered inaccurate since PCR tests are no longer available to the general public.
There were 98 more deaths linked to the disease.
Premier François Legault is set to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon alongside Health Minister Christian Dubé and interim public health director Dr. Luc Boileau.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.