The models show what could happen if Omicron is 3x less severe or as severe as Delta.
Quebec Premier François Legault said Wednesday night that Quebec's COVID-19 case count today would be around 9,000 – roughly a 50% increase on Wednesday's record total. That shocking rise is consistent with the latest Omicron-based COVID-19 projections unveiled by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec on Wednesday.
One thing that stands out in the latest INSPQ report, as in the previous one, is the rather frightening way their graphs show potential cases and hospitalizations going off the charts – they literally don't show the peaks.
Yikes. Even though Morrissey didn't moan about "panic on the streets of Montreal," the Smiths song "Panic" nonetheless seems apt. But while the projections are quite scary, there's still a glimmer of hope.
The INSPQ estimates that the Omicron virus variant spread rapidly in Quebec due to "the decrease in the basic protection" provided by two doses of vaccines, paired with "low vaccination coverage with the third dose and the likely increase of effective social contacts (already present before its arrival)."
But the institute says the situation could potentially be mitigated depending on how things progress in the coming weeks.
The INSPQ modelled various potential scenarios that consider different levels of contagiousness, how effective existing vaccines prove to be against it, and how well the public follows government recommendations and guidelines.
If Omicron is "three times less" severe than the Delta variant, strong adherence to measures and an increased number of third doses administered could "slow the increase in cases and hospitalizations" so that the number of new hospitalizations per day is similar to or below that of the January 2021 peak.
A second set of models presents a much less optimistic view of the variant's progression.
According to the INSPQ, "If Omicron is as severe as Delta, strong adherence to the December 20 measures and acceleration of vaccination with the third dose would not reduce transmission sufficiently to keep the number of new hospitalizations per day below the January 2021 peak." This potential scenario is represented on the graph below.
It shows that even if there is a low rate of vaccine breakthrough, and accounting for measures announced on December 20, new COVID-19 cases could continue to rise beyond 6,000 per day, and new hospitalizations to 225 or more per day, descending around February.
The INSPQ was clear to point out that "at present, there are still several uncertainties regarding the severity of Omicron, the rate of vaccination with the 3rd dose and the population's adherence to the announced measures."
So, take these projections with a grain of salt.
The institute concluded that "the combination of strong public adherence to measures, accelerated vaccination with the third dose, screening and isolation could mitigate Omicron transmission in Quebec. However, given the uncertainty regarding the severity of Omicron, we cannot exclude the possibility of hospital capacity being exceeded, even with the measures announced on December 20 and the acceleration of vaccination with a third dose."
Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
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