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The New Variant In Quebec Is 'Concerning' Public Health — Here's What That Means

It doesn't currently mean new measures.

Quebec's interim public health director provides an update on the COVID-19 situation.

Quebec's interim public health director provides an update on the COVID-19 situation.

After getting through the fifth wave of COVID-19 in Quebec, a new variant threatens a possible sixth wave ahead. In a news conference on Sunday, the province's interim public health director Dr. Luc Boileau provided an update on the epidemiological situation.

While Dr. Boileau called the Omicron sublineage BA.2 "concerning," he clarified that it likely won't lead to any new restrictions for the population, stressing the importance of individual responsibility. He also said that despite "indicators lead[ing] us to believe that Quebec is currently experiencing an increase [in cases] that continues to take hold," it's too soon to say whether we're in a sixth wave — something only time will tell as data is collected over the next several days.

"We have to learn to live with the virus. Let's be clear, there is no question of introducing population-based measures," said Dr. Boileau. "Each person must act responsibly, according to their situation, for themselves and for others."

According to Dr. Boileau, hospitalizations are increasing in several regions: Gaspésie, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Capitale-Nationale and, to a lesser extent, Chaudière-Appalaches.

Dr. Boileau said that if current INESSS modelling trends continue, hospitalizations will likely keep increasing.

"The BA.2 variant is being transmitted even more rapidly, so remain vigilant and make sure you protect yourself," Dr. Boileau said. "A week ago we were already at 57% [of cases], and we expect to easily calculate that at least two-thirds of cases are BA.2 cases across Quebec."

This is worrying, he said, but not surprising.

"With the lifting of most of the measures, we were preparing for an increase in cases. It was expected. It was a calculated risk for us with the recent easing, so we are not surprised. We are closely monitoring the situation on several indicators. In particular, we see an increase [...] more specifically in our health workers," he said, noting that, in less than a week, there were 60% more discharges in the health care sector due to COVID-19 among health care workers.

"We are not in the same situation as in December and January, but the public health department that I represent today is following this very closely. The rise of the B.A.2 variant is concerning. The tools at our disposal, such as vaccination, are fully available. If we want to protect our health system, we must also protect the most vulnerable people."

Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.

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