"It's a record!" proclaimed the health minister on Twitter. "We are committed to resuming our cruising speed quickly with reinforcements."
Hier, + de 315k Qu\u00e9b\u00e9cois ont pris rdv pour obtenir leur vaccin. C\u2019est un record! Aussi, + de 73k ont re\u00e7u une dose hier, et de ce nbr, pr\u00e8s de 64k se sont pr\u00e9sent\u00e9s pour leur 3e dose. Nous nous sommes engag\u00e9s a reprendre notre vitesse de croisi\u00e8re rapidement avec les renforts.
— Christian Dub\u00e9 (@Christian Dub\u00e9)
Dubé's oft-repeated message to get vaccinated seems to have struck a chord with Quebecers in the throes of the current "critical situation" with the Omicron variant. Because of the new variant, case counts have been consistently hitting record numbers, with well over 3,000 cases announced per day since late last week.
Vaccinations are also, perhaps predictably, on the rise. According to Dubé, "over 73k received a dose yesterday, and of that number, nearly 64k were there for their 3rd dose."
For now, booster shots are only available to people aged 65 and older as well as those who are immunocompromised or have a chronic illness, pregnant people, and anyone who received a full series of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Starting December 27, individuals aged 60-64 will also become eligible.
At a press conference on Monday, Dubé said that people will be 75% protected against Omicron once they have three doses of the vaccine, compared to 30% protected with just two doses.
Quebec has announced a slew of new health regulations in an attempt to halt the spread of the new variant. From a mandatory work-from-home order to the closure of gyms, a bunch of things have changed over the past week.
As of 5 p.m. on December 20, restaurants and shops were reduced to 50% capacity; bars, clubs, cinemas and gyms were closed; and schools suspended class. It was a dizzying array of health regulations that are sure to frustrate some people ahead of the holiday season.
In addition, the government mandated that only 10 people are allowed to gather in a private residence, putting a damper on a lot of planned holiday parties.
Let's hope that with this new record number of vaccination appointments, things start to get more optimistic around here.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
On December 30, 2021, François Legault announced a handful of restrictions across Quebec, which included the closure of indoor dining and places of worship, and the postponement of a return to in-person learning at schools in the new year. In a January 13 Facebook post, Legault confirmed elementary and high school students would be returning to class as of Monday, January 17. But what about university students?
Montreal CEGEPs and universities also reverted to remote learning, however, things are looking a little different for students returning to in-person classes at post-secondary institutions. Premier Legault stated in a January 12 post that while universities could reopen their doors as of the 17th, they are being given extra leeway to determine the exact date in which in-person classes could resume.
Concordia University students are expected to return back to in-person learning on February 3, per a recent news notice. Vannina Maestracci, the university spokesperson, revealed that the initial date was extended beyond January 20, and any possibility of a further extension will be relayed to the community as soon as possible.
The Concordia Library and Birks Student Service Centre remain open, along with a number of designated break areas for students to eat. As for mask requirements, students will be expected to wear procedure masks "when entering university buildings and using shared indoor spaces," including classrooms, the university states.
In-person learning will be returning even earlier for McGill University students. With "Tier 1" activities (labs, etc.) having been in-person since January 10, most instruction will be moving from online to in-person as of January 24. McGill's media relations rep, Katherine Gombay issued a statement that despite plans for return, the university remains flexible with contingency plans put into place in case the COVID-19 situation changes.
Université de Montreal is expected to return to in-person sessions as of January 31,* although their libraries have remained open. The university has also made it clear that the use of masks is "mandatory" across campus for all activities at all times.
The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) has also stated that remote learning will take place until January 31.* However, many activities in which face-to-face teaching is essential will return as early as January 24.
Have you been having a hard time trying to procure a rapid test in Quebec? You're not alone! Luckily it seems as if there is a glimmer of hope as the distribution of rapid tests is set to pick up province-wide.
Now, as PCR tests are reserved for priority groups, at home rapid tests have become the norm and Santé Québec is clarifying exactly when to use the testing kit for a more accurate diagnosis.
La personne est contagieuse environ 2 jours avant l\u2019apparition de sympt\u00f4mes, m\u00eame pour les asymptomatiques \n Le test rapide doit \u00eatre fait dans les jours qui suivent les contacts de cas ou au d\u00e9but des sympt\u00f4mes pour que la charge virale ait plus de chances d\u2019\u00eatre d\u00e9tect\u00e9epic.twitter.com/mb3xRFGxdb
"People can become contagious about 2 days before the appearance of symptoms, even for asymptomatic people," the Ministry of Health said in a January 12 tweet alongside a graph comparing the efficacy of rapid and PCR tests over time.
To avoid running the risk of a false negative, potentially wasting a test, Santé Québec says that "the rapid test should be done within days of contact with a positive case or at the onset of symptoms for the virus to be more likely detected."
The rapid tests, the graph shows, are effective for less than a week following the onset of symptoms — just a fraction of the 14-day window in which a PCR test can detect a COVID-19 infection.
PCR tests are effective almost as soon as an infected person becomes contagious, about four days after contact with a positive case, according to the ministry.
Though right now Quebec isn’t counting the number of positive at-home tests — leading to an undercount in official tallies — the government is creating a platform where the public can self-report their COVID-19 status.
That is if residents can find a rapid test at all. Pharmacies have been in short supply despite promises of widespread distribution.
However, recent announcements suggest the situation could be changing.
In a January 5 press release, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP) said that Quebec was set to receive another batch of testing kits beginning Tuesday, January 11, and continuing into the following week. The testing kits, which are available to those 14 years of age and over, include five tests and can be replenished per 30 day period.
On January 13, the Ministry of Health announced the province is set to receive another 70 million rapid tests over the course of the next few months, pending Health Canada's approval of a partnership with a private distributor.
It's about time! As of Friday, January 14, Quebec third dose appointments are open to every adult in Quebec. Residents who are at least 18 years old are able to schedule their booster through the Clic Santé platform.
Vaccine appointments are widely available and if you're lucky, you won't have to wait too long to get yours.
According to Quebec health regulations, a "COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccine booster dose is recommended three months or more after the last dose." Which is to say, if you got your second dose less than three months ago, you'll have to wait a bit longer to get the booster.
If you have certain medical conditions such as being on dialysis, are receiving chemo or radiotherapy, are taking medications that affect your immune system, or are living with HIV and have a "CD4 cell count lower than 500 / mm3," you are eligible to receive your third dose four weeks or more after your last dose.
Keep in mind that if you want to go pretty much anywhere in the weeks and months ahead, you'll need to get a third dose no matter what. The government has hinted that eventually the vaccine passport will only be valid if you've received all three doses.
The government announced it is expanding the vaccine passport requirement so that it will cover the majority of shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas, and more – putting increasing pressure on people to get caught up on vaccinations.
A Montreal restaurant promises to open on January 30 in violation of public health rules. Quebec ordered the closure of bars on December 20 and restaurant dining rooms on December 31 and has not said when they can reopen.
"We can no longer comply with these arbitrary measures that have been proven NOT to be effective in solving the issue we are all faced with," avenue Fairmount Italian restaurant Kesté wrote in an Instagram post Thursday, further warning that "if something doesn't change and we don't take a stand small businesses will turn into something of the past."
Kesté is calling on other restaurants, bars and cafés to open on January 30, too. It shared an image of a flier encouraging businesses to "take back our rights" and participate in a "national mass movement" of civil disobedience.
"As a city we all need to work together to no longer allow any more unnecessary lockdowns that no one supports," the Instagram post reads. "We cannot fix the damage done in the past but we can definitely prevent it from happening again."
Health Minister Christian Dubé responded to Kesté's commitment to reopen in a press conference on Thursday.
"We understand that people want to go back as quickly as possible to a normal life," he said. "But we need to do things gradually."
"I would just ask this restaurant owner and all other merchants to be patient. I know it's difficult." He pointed to government programs offering businesses financial support.
"I'm just saying, let's make sure that we don't go back."