"People have to learn to live with the virus."
Following a brief lull in cases after the Omicron variant swept through the province (worst. Christmas. ever), COVID-19 cases in Quebec have begun to increase yet again. Officials at the public health institute have officially declared a sixth wave.
On Thursday, Quebec reported 3,319 new cases and 1,238 total hospitalizations.
This new variant and increase in infections beg the question: are we heading for another lockdown?
According to Minister of Health Christian Dubé, everything is going according to plan so far.
"Of course we are concerned about the increase, among other things, in cases and hospitalizations, but, at the same time, I remind you that this was expected," Dubé said at a press conference on March 31, adding that the BA.2 variant now accounts for 50% of new cases in the province.
The Omicron BA.2 variant is particularly prevalent in regions like the Côte-Nord, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, and Gaspésie — regions that weren't so hard-hit by Omicron. "Therefore, people may have less natural immune protection from Omicron than those in larger regions, especially Montreal."
The current regions most affected are less populated than areas like Montreal, but they also have fewer health care workers. In order to accommodate the recent increase in hospitalizations, health care workers can now return to work within five days of testing positive for COVID-19. "That will be very helpful in reducing the pressure on our workers."
Dubé said there will be upcoming conversations with Interim Director of Public Health Dr. Luc Boileau concerning whether or not the mask mandate will be lifted around April 15, as previously planned. In the meantime, the government seems to be staying the course.
"There is no reason at the moment [...] to change the strategy we have, because people have to learn to live with the virus, to continue to protect themselves," said Dubé.