According to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), the last time the daily death count was more than 44 was on January 27, 2021, when 45 deaths were recorded.* In total, 11,917 Quebecers have died from COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic.
#COVID19 - En date du 7 janvier, voici la situation au Qu\u00e9bec: http://bit.ly/3u2lZJO\u00a0pic.twitter.com/bJ5OR5R5uQ
At a press conference on Friday, Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said he believes COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory in Canada "one day" and Quebec officials have publicly stated that they haven't ruled out this option.
In the coming weeks, Quebec will require that customers have a vaccine passport to enter liquor and cannabis stores, the SAQ and the SQDC. Health Minister Christian Dubé said the vaccine passport will also become mandatory for more businesses in the near future.
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.
"We need to be careful to not give more reasons to encourage these individuals to not respect the rules," said Dubé.
"It's not for nothing that we're talking about prioritization protocols for hospitals," he said, referring to the government's planning to deal with beds filled beyond capacity and staffing shortages caused by the Omicron wave. "The situation in hospitals, if people haven't understood, is we've reached the end of the line."
Last week, a handful of Montreal restaurants, including Kesté and Cafeteria Europa, announced that they would open on January 30 at full capacity. That plan is in protest of "arbitrary measures that have been proven not to be effective in solving the issue we are all faced with," according to an Instagram post.
But Dubé said things need to happen in a certain order.
"We have to take control of the situation, notably hospitals, before discussing reopenings," the health minister explained on Tuesday.
"At the same time, I want to say to those people that you have a reason to be upset," Dubé said. "We all have reason to be upset [...] but at the same time, it would be disappointing to let go [of rules] where there could be, in a few days, a stabilization of cases and eventually, a reduction. Before opening your restaurant, think about the workers in hospitals, where we're missing 12,000 workers."
Dubé declined to provide a timeline or a sense of what might reopen next when the government begins to remove restrictions, reiterating that the situation in hospitals needed to be under control first.
"I understand you're frustrated, but think about the workers and the health network [...] we want to reopen, but wait a little bit."
A majority of Quebecers still approve of Premier François Legault, according to a recent Angus Reid Institute survey — despite the fact that the population has grown increasingly critical of his government's handling of the pandemic.
Legault's approval rating currently sits at 55%, the survey says. That's a big drop from his peak of 77% in May 2020 — and it's his lowest rating since his election in October 2018. But Legault's approval rating is nonetheless second-highest in Canada, behind only Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, who has 57% approval.
"Legault's personal popularity, or approval, was at stratospheric levels in the early days of the pandemic, as were those of many other premiers," Shachi Kurl, the president of Angus Reid Institute, told MTL Blog in an email.
"Doug Ford reached a halcyonic 69% approval. In B.C., John Horgan was at 71%, Blaine Higgs reached 80% at the height of the cross-country love-fest for provincial leaders."
Legault's 22% drop since then is not insignificant, but minor compared to the free-fall of Ontario Premier Doug Ford (currently down 39% from his pandemic peak) and Higgs (down 46%). Legault's ongoing popularity is perhaps most remarkable given that Quebec has arguably been hit the hardest by the pandemic — demonstrating the depth of his support.
"That two years later — after curfews, a catastrophic loss of life within long-term care homes, and now a promised 'health tax' on the unvaccinated — Legault remains above 50% approval, is a testament not only to Quebecers' perceptions of him but their buy-in for the CAQ," Kurl said.
Approval of Legault's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has dropped to 59%, also the lowest rating Angus Reid has reported for the Quebec premier. It's still in positive territory, but far from its high of 92% in April 2020. (Angus Reid notes their most recent survey was conducted before Legault announced the tax on unvaccinated Quebecers.)
Quebecers are generally happy with the province's vaccine rollout, the survey says — 81% say the government has done a good job or a very good job. But 58% say the government has done a poor job or a very poor job of "making rapid antigen tests available where they are needed."
The pandemic response may be affecting voting intentions. A different poll, by Mainstreet Research, showed support for the Coalition Avenir Québec has dropped 10% since their last survey in February 2021, and now sits at 38%. The drop is significant, but the runner-up, the Quebec Liberal Party, is still at a distant 20%.
The Angus Reid survey was conducted from January 7 to 12, 2022, with a sample of 5,002 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
On Tuesday, Quebec reported more new 89 new COVID-19 deaths. The province also recorded a net increase of 36 COVID-19 hospital patients on January 17, bringing the total number of active hospitalizations to 3,417, of which 289 were in intensive care, a net increase of three.
The province also tallied 5,143 new infections. However, because PCR tests are no longer available to the general public, official case counts are unreliable.
#COVID19 - En date du 17 janvier, voici la situation au Qu\u00e9bec: http://bit.ly/3u2lZJO\u00a0pic.twitter.com/OqMcUlGW16
Large stores with an area of at least 1,5000 square meters, such as Canadian Tire, will require the vaccine passport as of January 24. Grocery stores and pharmacies are exempt.
Health Minister Christian Dubé has hinted that even more businesses could require customers to be fully vaccinated in the coming months.
The government has also announced its intention to impose a tax on unvaccinated residents. Premier François Legault has called the sum an additional health contribution to compensate for the disproportionate burden unvaccinated Quebecers place on the health care system.
Critics have said the so-called "unvaxxed tax" would unfairly punish vulnerable populations who may not have had access to a vaccine.
The National Assembly is set to debate the proposed measure when it's back in session.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.