Quebec is reporting more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday for the first time since the pandemic began.
The province reported 2,031 new infections as well as 48 additional deaths. The provincial death toll now stands at 7,231.
Public health however says the number of new cases is inflated by a number of cases identified the day before that were not reported in Friday’s case count.
Eleven of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours, while the rest happened earlier or at an unknown date.
Hospitalizations declined by seven to 754, with 96 people in intensive care.
Montreal reported the most new cases, with 630, while Quebec City was second-highest with 304.
Saturday’s case count brings the total number of people who have contracted the virus in Quebec to 149,908 since the pandemic began.
The province conducted 35,391 tests on Dec. 3 — the last date for which testing data is available.
Over 4,049,700 tests have been conducted in Quebec since the beginning of the health crisis.
Experts like McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos say the new numbers are a sobering reality check.
“The fact that things are not improving, probably to a very large extent, explains why the government backtracked on their plans for Christmas about not allowing small gatherings,” he said.
While the dramatic increase in cases was not accompanied by an increase in hospitalizations, Labos says any increase in the province’s infection rate is bound to eventually increase strain on an already-overworked health-care system.
On Twitter, Quebec’s Health Minister Christian Dubé agreed. “Now is not the time to relax our efforts,” he tweeted in French.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Benson Cook.