After announcing that parts of the general public will begin to receive COVID-19 vaccines later this week, the premier said the government could authorize the reopening of other sectors "if things continue to go well."
I know there are [Quebecers] who are impatient... but I want to encourage everyone.
Premier François Legault
"In the next few weeks, we will be able to open performance halls... places of worship with instructions [and] indoor sports, but we want to see what happens with spring break and the variants," he said.
The premier also explained the province's methodology in choosing to reopen certain businesses in Quebec red zones — such as movie theatres and indoor pools — over others for spring break.
"We also wanted to [do it] gradually. It's not because we chose the least risky places [to reopen]," Legault said.
"We [chose] places where we thought we would be able to [bring parts of] families together for spring break."
Legault said the coming weeks raise concerns for public health authorities who worry Quebecers will organize private gatherings during March break — similar to the winter break when the province saw a surge in COVID-19 cases due to Christmas gatherings.
"It's a big test next week. You have to respect your family bubble," he said.
If the downward trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new daily cases continues, Legault said other reopenings will be announced after March 8.
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.
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.
Premier François Legault recently announced that unvaccinated Quebecers are going to be charged a "significant" fee if they refuse to get at least their first dose in the next few weeks unless they have a medical reason not to.
The premier began by saying that the Government of Quebec will "reach out one by one" to the 600,000 adults who have not yet received a vaccine dose to inform them about the fee and ensure that the person is not in a vulnerable situation and has good reasons to refuse the vaccine.
"The objective, indeed, is to be able to have a list of people who refuse to be vaccinated, not for medical reasons, not because they don't speak French or because they don't have access to vaccines. And these people, if they really refuse, given that they bring an enormous burden on the health care system, I think it is normal that they pay a contribution," Legault stated
How much such will cost has not been announced yet, nor is it known exactly what form it will take. The "health contribution" was compared on the program to a "fine" received for running a red light.
Guy A. Lepage, one of the show's hosts, asked Mr. Legault how the government was going to get the list of non-vaccinated people, since patients' medical information is supposed to be protected by confidentiality.
Government lawyers are working on this and a bill is expected to be debated with the opposition parties in the National Assembly in early February, which is when we'll find out how much the fee would cost.
According to Legault, if important surgeries are postponed, it is "often because of the non-vaccinated."
"One person going into intensive care can cost up to $50,000. Multiply that [by] a few hundred non-vaccinated people continually adding up, it's a lot of money, but it's mostly a risk for all the people who have their surgeries postponed."
Judge Sébastien Vaillancourt of the Quebec Superior Court has suspended a father's visitation rights due to the man being unvaccinated against COVID-19.
It's no secret that the Québec government has imposed a handful of restrictions on unvaccinated populations, including Premier Legault's most recent plans to significantly tax the unvaccinated. But it seems as if the personal decision to get vaccinated or not is creating major issues for one Montreal father.
Judge Vaillancourt temporarily barred the man from visiting his 12-year-old son in a December 23 ruling after he attempted to change his custody arrangement for part of the holiday season.
The father had petitioned for a review of his access rights, requesting to see his son between December 30, 2021, and January 9, 2022. The boy's mother contested the request after learning that the man was not vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a court document.
Considering the rampant spread of the Omicron variant, Vaillancourt wrote that while it would normally be in the best interest of the child to see his father, he believed the current epidemiological situation mandated otherwise.
The child, who is currently vaccinated with both doses, also lives with his 7-month-old and 4-year-old half-siblings.
The judge said he also weighed the risk of infection spreading to the younger children, who are not eligible for vaccination, in his decision to suspend visitation rights until at least February 8, 2022.
When the father was questioned regarding his decision to remain unvaccinated, he made clear he had "reservations," but did not explain what they were, Vaillancourt wrote in the decision.
The court further pointed to several of the father's Facebook posts indicating doubts about government health rules, suggesting, Vaillancourt said, that he is a "conspiracy theorist" and undermining his claims that he follows public health measures.
The suspension can be re-evaluated depending on the evolution of the COVID-19 situation, and whether the man abides by health regulations and chooses to get vaccinated. The father is currently set for another hearing on February 8.