UPDATE: In a press conference the following day, on February 11, Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda said there were 48 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 variant strain cases in the Montreal region.
We're trying to gain time, and in that time we hope to vaccinate [as many] people as possible.
Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal Public Health Director
Of the 44 variant strain cases, nine have been confirmed through lab sequencing and 12 are epidemiologically linked, meaning they're thought to have been transmitted from someone with a confirmed variant strain in Montreal.
Twenty-three of the variant strain cases were declared by laboratories, but have not yet been formally confirmed by Montreal public health.
Dr. Drouin said they were likely linked to travellers returning to Quebec from abroad.
According to Drouin, data has shown that the COVID-19 virus variants — originating in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa — are over 40% more transmissible than the predominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in Montreal.
En conférence de presse, Dre Mylène Drouin a parlé des variants. Il y a présentement 44 cas suspectés, dont 9 confi… https://t.co/zBgWSWUz9i
Boucherie Slovenia, a boulevard Saint-Laurent institution for 50 years, will soon serve its last spicy sausage.
The iconic home of enormous Eastern European-style sandwiches — Slovenian sausage and towering cold-cuts were staples — will close its doors forever on January 29, said the owners, Lourdes Rodrigues and Jean Teixeira, in a Facebook post.
"Thank you to all our loyal customers, for the wonderful years," they said.
With a menu overflowing with huge, yet affordable, meat and mustard sandwiches — sauerkraut, pickles and Cherry Cokes were also standard — Boucherie Slovenia is the latest of the Main's iconic old-school institutions to close.
The beloved Moishes steakhouse announced its closure under the strain of the pandemic in the summer of 2020.
The Boucherie Slovenia Facebook post asks readers to share their memories of the restaurant and butcher shop, with many offering childhood stories of visiting for a pepperette sandwich or their "underrated" smoked meat, which is "the best in the city," according to one commenter.
Many apparent long-time customers said they wouldn't know where to go to find dishes comparable to Boucherie Slovenia's treasured menu items.
Others remarked on how yet another classic Montreal restaurant is closing its doors. "Nothing replaces these fantastic old shops," said one person. "It's a loss. The rich character of the boulevard is disappearing."
According to a new study conducted by Maru Public Opinion, 27% of Quebecers would approve of forcing the unvaccinated to "serve up to five days as part of a jail sentence for endangering others/overwhelming health care system," which is in line with the national average.
More than half of Quebecers (55%) surveyed wouldn't even feel bad for unvaccinated people who end up really sick — or dying — from COVID-19, also in line with the Canadian average. Currently, 12% of Quebecers surveyed admit to refusing the vaccine.
Maru contacted 1,506 Canadians — including 387 Quebecers — between January 14 and 15 for this survey. They note that "for comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20."
The reasons cited in the study for avoiding the vaccine were varied, ranging from the understandable to the ludicrous. Civil liberty was a concern for many: 45% of unvaccinated Canadians claimed they are defending their right to make their own choices, and 22% say they just don't like the government telling them what to do.
Fear seems to be another strong motivator: 42% of unvaccinated Canadians claimed to be waiting for more data about the vaccine's safety, and 28% said they're anxious or scared of the effects the vaccine may have.
32% of unvaccinated Canadians, meanwhile, simply said that their immune system could beat the virus if they got it, so they don't need a vaccine.
Misinformation and conspiracy theories have also contributed to anti-vax sentiments. 21% said they're concerned that the vaccine will affect their genetic structure. 9% still think that COVID-19 is a hoax, while 7% believe the vaccine is just a ploy to keep drug companies rich and 4% think it's a global conspiracy to control those who get it. 3% think the vaccine will give them COVID-19.
Finally, only 1% of unvaccinated Canadians claimed it was against their religion to get the vaccine.
On the other end of the spectrum, 67% of Quebecers think that the vaccine should be mandatory, which is just above the national average of 66%. 78% of people in Quebec support the provincial government's decision to require a vaccine passport to enter the SAQ, the SQDC and large stores. And amid the controversy, 66% of Quebecers support an anti-vax tax.
The strain on our health care system remains a concern for Quebecers. 60% of respondents think the unvaccinated should pay out of pocket for any medical assistance they need due to COVID-19, and 35% believe the unvaccinated shouldn't be treated in public health care facilities at all.
Montreal is certainly no stranger to a traffic jam, which makes taking public transit a more viable option to not only get around faster but do more good for the environment.
As Canadian cities take the initiative to improve their transit systems and reduce their carbon footprints, Montreal has become one of the country's greenest metropolitan areas when it comes to transport, according to one ranking.
A December report from Kijiji Autos analyzed green transport options in Canada's most populated cities, evaluating their use of electric cars, bikes, scooters, and the number of electric charging stations.
With its metro and bus systems, BIXI rentals, bike lanes, and availability of electric cars, Montreal found itself in third place among Canadian cities that offer the greenest transport with a score of 5.5/10.
Although Vancouver and Ottawa/Gatineau snagged the top two spots, Montreal takes the lead as the most bicycle-friendly city in all of North America, with a total of 2,163 bicycle paths, says the Copenhagenize Index.
Montreal's third-place ranking is encouraging news, said McGill University Assistant Professor of Geography, Grant McKenzie, who specifically boasted about Montreal's metro system, "especially compared to other Canadian cities," as well as its "substantial investment towards electric buses."
While McKenzie said "we can always do better" and bemoaned the city's ban on e-scooters, he called the popularity of the BIXI and the inclusion of electric bikes in its fleet an "excellent move in the right direction."
As for electric cars, Kijiji Autos looked at new registrations of electric vehicles in the first quarter of 2021, as well as total charging stations. Montreal landed second to Toronto with a total of 3,633 new registered electric cars, and 1,258 electric charging stations throughout the city.
Kijiji Autos also looked at the number of hybrids and electric vehicles for sale on their platform. Montreal led the way with 1,063 hybrid vehicles and 375 electric vehicles, states the report.
With the province of Quebec offering residents a rebate for the purchase or lease of electric cars, Quebec estimates that there will be 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.
Health Canada has officially approved Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral treatment for use among adults 18 years and over. Considering that Quebec's hospitals are currently overwhelmed, the approval of the drug, called Paxlovid, might be the light at the end of the tunnel many have been looking for. (Although of course, we've heard that line before.)
Quebec's Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé remarked on the approval on Monday, calling it "very good news" for the province and its overwhelmed health care system. In a tweet, Dubé stated that "we can hope that this treatment will eventually allow us to limit our hospitalizations due to COVID-19."
Paxlovid is not preventative like a vaccine — it's designed to be used to treat an infection. The treatment is said to lessen the symptoms from mild to moderate infections and reduce the period in which an individual remains ill from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The drug combines nirmatrelvir — an inhibitor designed to block the replication of the virus — with ritonavir — which helps slow the body's breakdown of nirmatrelvir so that it remains active longer. It will be made available by prescription only and is the very first antiviral treatment in pill form accessible to Canadians for at-home treatment of COVID-19.
After months of Pfizer's clinical trials, Health Canada observed that "Paxlovid reduced the proportion of participants with COVID-19 related hospitalization or death through Day 28 by 89.1%, compared with placebo."
Update: @GovCanHealth has approved Paxlovid, Pfizer\u2019s antiviral treatment for COVID-19. We\u2019ve secured 1 million treatment courses \u2013 more than 30,000 have already arrived, and we\u2019re getting at least 120,000 more before the end of March.
Canada has already secured 1 million treatment courses, over 30,000 of which have already arrived, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed in a January 17 tweet. The government expects to receive an additional 120,000 treatments of Pfizer's Paxlovid by the end of March.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.