In a press conference on November 3, Dubé said "vaccination of health care workers will no longer be mandatory for current employees of the network and will be mandatory for all new employees. Secondly, public health requires a very rigorous screening of all unvaccinated employees [...] three times a week."
#COVID19 - D\u00e9pistage des TdS non-vaccin\u00e9s : en date du 16 nov, c\u2019est 329 personnes (+131 par rapport \u00e0 la semaine derni\u00e8re) qui ont refus\u00e9 les tests de d\u00e9pistage et qui sont suspendus sans solde.
On November 18, Santé Quebec tweeted that as of November 16, 329 people had refused screening tests and were therefore suspended without pay, which it said was an increase of 131 people compared to the previous week.
This means 198 Quebecers were suspended in the first week the new measures were implemented. With the 329 people suspended the next week, that adds up to a total of 527 fewer health care workers in two weeks.
Employees in the health network who are not vaccinated are not eligible to receive bonuses related to attraction and retention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to figures provided by Dubé at the beginning of November, there are close to 14,000 health care workers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Of them, 8,000 have yet to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes nearly 5,550 who are in direct contact with patients.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
Coming to Quebecers live from a youth-filled vaccination clinic in Chaudière-Appalaches, Premier Legault reiterated that, as long as the COVID-19 situation allows for it, the government wants to loosen gathering rules so that 20 to 25 people are allowed in our homes for the holidays.
Le premier ministre r\u00e9pond aux questions des journalistes.\n \nSuivez notre m\u00eal\u00e9e de presse en direct https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1vAxRkjLWPzKl\u00a0\u2026
"We know that there are many families — when we look at the brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces — who exceed the 10 people. [...] So we hope to be able, for Christmas, for New Year's, to have families a little enlarged to 20, 25 people," he said. "Right now, it's going very well on the hospitalization side."
While Legault didn't set anything in stone, he did say the success of Quebec's youth vaccination campaign is increasing our chances to host more loved ones over the holidays. He noted that 240,000 young people aged 11 to 15 — 37% — have already booked an appointment or gotten a vaccine dose, which he called "a good start."
"By adding these 240,000 children who will be vaccinated, it will help to have coverage in our society. It will help us to give ourselves the chance that during the holiday season, we will be able to increase to 20, 25 the number of people in our homes," he said.
For now, Legault said the government and public health are "following the situation closely from day to day." He said Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, is set to make an official recommendation about holiday gatherings next week.
Legault added that there are no plans to add restrictions if there's a significant case increase. He said it's important to look at hospitalizations, which are currently "under control."
"I repeat to all Quebecers, be careful between now and Christmas so that we can give ourselves the maximum chance to have reasonably-sized parties during the holiday season," Legault said.
The government announced Tuesday that it's updating Canada's border rules in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled a "variant of concern."
The update includes the introduction of arrival testing for all fully-vaccinated travellers coming by air from places other than the United States and a mandatory quarantine for these travellers until they get their results.
The health and safety of Canadians remains our priority. We are strengthening the measures announced last week to include: 1/3pic.twitter.com/upQmwrXb8V
Unvaccinated travellers who have a right to enter Canada and arrive by air will have to "stay in a designated quarantine facility or other suitable location" while they wait for the results of an on-arrival test, in addition to the already-in-force requirement to quarantine for 14 days, according to a news release.
In addition, Canada added Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi to the list of countries subject to additional restrictions. Foreign nationals who have visited the countries on this list in the previous 14 days will not be allowed to enter Canada.
The complete list now includes Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
"We are taking quick action at our borders to mitigate travel related importations of the Omicron variant," federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said in the release.
"While our monitoring systems are working well, we now know that the Omicron variant is present in Canada. We need to remain vigilant in our own actions."
Though the Omicron variant continues to spread and countries impose additional travel restrictions, the WHO has said that it's so far unclear if the variant is more transmissible or produces worse symptoms than other variants.
Quebec's new COVID-19 cases have hit their highest point in over half a year, and hospitalizations are rising, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced at a press conference on December 1, where he urged prudence as the holidays approach.
"Don't be surprised when we publish our figures at 11 o'clock, 1,200 cases," Dubé said. The health minister stressed that "we have to be careful."
"Not just because of the new variant, but the health measures, we have to follow them at this time. [...] I want us to get to Christmas as low as possible in our cases. Hospitalizations have been going up 10 cases a day for the last three days, which is what you're going to see this morning at 11. So let's be careful for the next few weeks."
According to the official provincial data released this morning, the exact number of new cases reported in the last 24 hours is 1,196. Quebec's new case count hasn't been this high since back in late April – April 24, to be exact — when 1,198 cases were reported.
The 1,000-case threshold was recently crossed again on November 24, the first time since early May. Since then, including today's announcement, Quebec has reported more than 1,000 cases three more times.
"I tell you, 1,200 cases today, I don't like it," Dubé said. "I don't like it because there's a significant increase."
The first case of the Omicron variant was detected in Quebec on Monday, November 28, as confirmed by Dubé in a press conference. Canada's first two confirmed cases of this new variant were discovered in Ottawa the day prior.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
In a nutshell, the Omicron variant is too new for scientists to make definitive statements about it. This means, experts say, we should be careful and practice the public health measures that have been recommended through most of the pandemic — but we shouldn’t overreact at this point.
First spotted in South Africa, the Omicron variant is reported to be the main driver of a wave of cases in that country. Salim Abdool Karim, a leading South African epidemiologist, was quoted in The New York Times saying that "no red flags" have been raised in relation to the new variant.
In a statement published on November 27, the South African foreign ministry said that travel restrictions to the country are "akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker."
"Excellent science should be applauded and not punished."
Still, early analysis suggests Omicron is quite infectious — similar to the Delta variant, said Dr. Mark Goldberg, an environmental epidemiologist and professor in the department of medicine at McGill University, in an email to MTL Blog. But, he wrote, many other details are unclear right now.
"That we have seen it in many countries does not imply it is worse than Delta," Goldberg wrote. "We do not know whether it causes more severe disease, nor do we know whether there will be more breakthrough infections in the vaccinated."
Given the current unknowns, according to Université de Montréal professor and research director Dr. Janusz Kaczorowski, "The best advice is to be cautious and continue with the current public health measures and vaccination campaigns to prevent spread and impact of Omicron."
Both Goldberg and Kaczorowski supported travel restrictions, but Goldberg said testing travellers as they enter the country — "even the vaccinated" — would help give health officials more time to prepare if Omicron proves to be a bigger problem.
"My concern, given the fact that [the Public Health Agency of Canada] consistently misses the mark, is that we will not act fast enough," Goldberg wrote.
With the Omicron variant now detected in Quebec, Health Minister Christian Dubé explained that provincial health experts are looking into whether the new variant is resisting vaccines and whether it is more contagious than other variants.
While experts concur that the new variant shouldn’t be a cause for panic, Quebec is remaining on alert and is imploring unvaccinated people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"What else to do?" Goldberg asked. "The same as before: wear masks, keep one’s distance, don’t congregate with unvaccinated people, and those people who have not been vaccinated — they need to. There is just no excuse not to be unless one reacts badly to these vaccines: they are safe and effective, and have proven to be highly effective even against Delta."