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Quebec experts cautiously optimistic about COVID-19 hospital projections

Coronavirus: Quebec government slowly starting to re-open the province
WATCH: Coronavirus — Quebec government slowly starting to re-open the province

Researchers predict that if the trend continues with hospitalization rates and if protective measures slowly decrease, Quebec hospitals can handle the predicted surge in cases of COVID-19.

Still, experts are cautiously optimistic about the province’s plan to loosen measures adopted since mid-March to reduce the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

“There is some good news and some uncertainties,” said Institut national d’excellence en sante et en services sociaux (INESSS) CEO Dr. Luc Boileau about the new data on projections of hospitalization rates of COVID-19 patients.

READ MORE: Quebec elementary schools, daycares to gradually reopen in May

The good news, according to Boileau, is that hospitalization rates are not as alarming as they have been in some European countries and that our health-care system still has room to manoeuvre.

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COVID-19: Quebec to reopen primary schools, daycares in May
COVID-19: Quebec to reopen primary schools, daycares in May

“For our own situation in Quebec, whether it be in Montreal, Laval or the other regions, there is still a lot of place or space to take care of the patients,” said Boileau, while admitting that the data could change as social distancing measures and other restrictions are dropped.

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The biggest uncertainty is that that the data doesn’t always paint a clear picture when it comes to predictions. The virus doesn’t always affect people immediately, making it hard to predict the level of infection at one given time.

“That’s why we have to follow it very carefully and progressively with the data on a daily basis to make sure that we could figure what’s going on and what’s going to happen,” Boileau said.

Another positive aspect revealed by the research is that social distancing measures, adopted starting the second week of March, provided results.

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READ MORE: Room for hope — but also warning — in Canada’s flattening coronavirus curve

“We did show that the social distancing measures that have been in place have had a pretty profound effect on the transmission rates,” said McGill University professor and researcher Dr. David Buckeridge.

“But we still are in a position where we’re kind of close to the edge, if you will, in terms of controlling the epidemic.”

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While Buckeridge continues to track the data, he believes the next step is for the Quebec government to build a clear strategy to start gradually easing restrictions, while protecting the most vulnerable population.

“What’s our plan to open society at a rate that’s not going to result in an undue increase of infections that would overwhelm our health-care system or affect the most vulnerable populations?” said Buckeridge.

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“I think it’s not unreasonable to think that through this summer will start to see progressive relaxing of measures.”